Electoral participation by armed forces personnel has again been raised in parliament. The Liberal Democrat peer Lord Roberts of Llandudno asked the Government what proposals they have to enable British military and other personnel serving overseas to vote in any elections in 2010.
- The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton) replied for the Government that military personnel and their families who are posted or serving overseas are able to vote by post or by proxy. The Government are working with the Electoral Commission to support their participation in any future elections. A defence instruction notice is published to inform personnel of the date and nature of the election and key dates by which individuals must be registered to vote. Additionally, the Electoral Commission distributes publicity campaign posters to all units worldwide.
- In a supplementary, Lord Roberts suggested "Remembering that one-third of Armed Forces personnel are not registered to vote, would it not be easiest, especially for those whose lives are at risk for us, to register automatically everyone who is recruited into the Armed Forces and then give them the opportunity to apply for a postal or proxy vote?
- Lord Roberts also asked if the Minister would arrange a meeting of the various political parties to ensure that their election literature reaches those in the Armed Forces who are eligible to vote. On this point, Baroness Taylor replied that getting party political material to any voter is the responsibility of the parties themselves, and it would be wrong for the MoD to intervene in that. She did not know whether the Ministry of Justice, which has overall responsibility for elections, might be willing to consider that point, but would ensure that that is brought to its attention.
- Lord Astor of Hever (Conservative, Shadow Minister for Defence and International Development) asked if an increased number of such personnel registered to vote since the Electoral Administration Act 2006. Baroness Taylor said that although the period of registration for service voters had been increased from one to three years, the majority of service voters are actually registered at a domestic address; three-quarters are registered in that way. The trend was thought to be improving and the latest yearly survey was under way.
- Lord Addington (Liberal Democrat) asked if the Minister could think of another group who should be encouraged to take part in general elections as strongly as our serving personnel. Would the Government ensure that everything is done to allow them to take part as there cannot be a more deserving or important group?