"We must now move into a more vigorous phase" - that was the reaction of Chairman of Conservatives Abroad, Heather Harper and Alistair Lexden when they met to discuss a second debate on overseas voting rights which took place in the House of Lords on January 23. A really significant change in the government’s position was announced by the minister, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, a Lib Dem, at the end of the debate. He invited Lord Lexden to set up an all-party inquiry which could create for the first time a consensus among Labour ,Lib Dems and Tories on extending the vote to all Brits abroad and work out a plan for their effective representation, perhaps by means of special constituencies. The lack of consensus among the parties at Westminster has been one of the main obstacles to securing justice for Brits overseas.
Alistair Lexden will now make arrangements for the establishment of the all-party inquiry. Conservatives Abroad will make a major contribution to its work. The more people we can involve in our branches throughout the world the greater will be our influence on the discussions. So we have an exciting new opportunity which we must use to the full. Both Heather and Alistair agree that the fact that this breakthrough has been achieved is itself an indication of the influence that Conservatives Abroad have had already. We must now build on that achievement.
Hansard Extraction Column 1123