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Lord Sewel: I remind the Committee that these amendments seek to allow Scottish and Welsh born people living elsewhere in the United Kingdom to vote at the referendums regardless of where they are registered to vote in the United Kingdom. By definition, that brings into play concepts of nationality or ethnicity and we cannot turn our face away from that--that somehow being born in a place carries some right to vote for the government of that country no matter how long you have been away from that country.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: Does the noble Lord accept that being born in a place does not merely affect nationality but affects domicile? If he does not, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, will confirm it to him. What we are concerned with here is people who were born in Scotland and therefore have Scottish domicile--not Scottish nationality.

Lord Sewel: I understand that it may, in that one can have domicile of origin; but one can also have domicile of choice as well. That is an important distinction. For the lay person the fact is that the amendment would carry a heavy nationalist overlay. That is something no part of the House would wish to encourage in any way, shape or form.

If place of birth were to be a deciding factor in having a vote about the future governmental arrangements of a country one could soon get to total absurdities. I understand that Sir Cliff Richard was born in India. I understand that we are soon to be joined by a former captain of the England cricket team who was similarly born in India. If place of birth is important, can the claim really be made that people who have been born in one country but left at a very early age--I am in the same category in that I left the country I was born in, England, at a very early age--should have a continuing right to have a say in the arrangements for the government of that country? That is a difficult argument to sustain. The noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, was right when she said that where you are born should neither qualify you nor disqualify you from voting in this type of referendum. That must surely be right.

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As the debate has gone on it has been clear that what I accept may well have been a well-intentioned amendment from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, somehow to give some sense of ownership to people who are Scots of what is happening in Scotland would produce immense difficulties. There is the difficulty referred to by one of my noble friends of what should happen if there were a referendum about Northern Ireland. Would it mean that everyone who was born in Northern Ireland should have a vote in that referendum? We would go down a very dangerous and perilous path if we go down the route advocated by the noble and learned Lord.

Lord Butterfield: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. I am concerned because as I understand it American citizens born in America but living abroad can vote in the American presidential election. Furthermore, American citizens living abroad have to pay tax to the American people. I cannot quite make that fit together with what the noble Lord is saying about eligibility to vote in a referendum. I have not thought deeply about this but I know that Americans can vote from overseas in the election of their president. They are taking part in the government of their country.

Earl Russell: If the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, will forgive me, perhaps he will consult the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, about the damage done by the American concept of extra-territoriality. It is a road I do not think we want to go down.

Lord Sewel: I cannot add anything more to the comments of the noble Earl. We have to decide what are the best arrangements for dealing with an internal problem in the United Kingdom, which is the move towards devolved government within the United Kingdom. That is the point we have to resolve. We ought to keep the concept of nationality and ethnicity well out of it because in our country, above all countries, that is a particularly dangerous and perilous path.

There is another point. The central register that the proposal would imply would be the most monstrous bureaucratic nightmare. How would it be set up? One would somehow have to verify place of birth and residency. There would have to be checks on birth certificates. There would be a requirement either to have polling stations throughout the United Kingdom or to have a totally massive postal voting system. We would have an enormous bureaucratic exercise which would break under its own internal contradictions.

I would not make the claim that the amendment was moved out of any sense of mischief. I am sure it was not. I am sure the intention was to generate a wider sense of ownership in a Scottish parliament. However, the way chosen, resurrecting the idea of nationality and ethnicity, which is central as soon as one starts using the definition of place of birth or country of birth as a qualifier, would be an extremely dangerous course of action. I strongly urge the Committee to reject the amendment.

Lord Campbell of Croy: I wish to put a short point arising from the Minister's remarks. If the Bill remains

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in its present form I would ask the Government to refrain from referring to "the Scottish people". It will not be the Scottish people who are being asked to give their views in the referendum; it will be the residents of Scotland at a particular time. I am quite happy that that should be so--there are a great many difficulties--but the Government should not go around saying that it is the will of the Scottish people or that the Scottish people have determined something or other. That is false. Then to go on to say that it is "the settled will of the Scottish people" makes it even worse. Of course a referendum based on the electorate in Scotland--the latest register--gives a good view of opinion in Scotland. But do not call it the will of the Scottish people.

Lord Sewel: I have toyed with that one myself on many occasions. The formulation I tend to favour is "the people of Scotland".

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: I am grateful to those noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. I am particularly grateful to the Minister for saying that he treated the amendment as being well intentioned. I have to say that chuckles from noble Lords on the Benches to my right may suggest that they do not entirely agree with that compliment. I accept it in the way it was intended.

In putting forward the amendment I feel that I was speaking for a number of people born in Scotland and Wales who no longer live there. The noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, suggested that the franchise chosen is perfectly acceptable to everyone. I suggest that it is not. However, I accept that there might be certain bureaucratic problems in taking forward the amendments I propose. I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 1, line 13, at end insert ("and members of the United Kingdom armed forces and their spouses who were born in Scotland and who would be entitled to vote in a general election in any electoral area of the United Kingdom").

The noble Lord said: In a way this is a subset of the previous amendment. Amendment No. 13 is grouped with Amendment No. 35, to which my noble friend Lord Crickhowell will speak.

I outlined the position at Second Reading. It concerns those Scottish members of the Armed Forces who find themselves in a position where they are commanded to go with their regiment, or move their homes to another Air Force base, or to move to the south of England in the case of a Scot in order to be near their Royal Navy base. They then find themselves south of the Border when the referendum comes along. If they have moved with their wives and families they may well have registered at their bases and homes south of the Border without realising the consequences as regards the referendum. I use again the example of the Royal Scots, currently based at Colchester. There may be at least 400 of them. I suspect that the young unmarried ones

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will have registered at home in Scotland; I suspect equally that a number, particularly those living in married quarters, will not.

I understand the difficulty. I have tried to phrase my amendment carefully. It says,

    "members of the...armed forces and their spouses...born in Scotland".
I may even be able to accept some of the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, and re-define that to, "having once had a vote in Scotland". That is in order to try to make the link even stronger so that the noble Lord cannot say that someone born in Scotland could have left at the age of two or three years and might never been back and that it would not be right if that person had a vote.

I am grateful to both the noble Lords, Lord Williams of Mostyn and Lord Sewel, for their explanations--one in debate and the other in a letter. Of course, I know the rules for service declarations. Perhaps I may quote from the letter of the noble Lord, Lord Sewel. It states:

    "Thus members of the forces can retain through a service declaration their right to vote in Scotland. Accordingly no member of the forces will lose his right to vote in this referendum simply because he is on duty outwith Scotland".
That is a carefully and brilliantly drafted couple of sentences. It is exactly true, but it is not really true because, when posed with the question about how to use their service declaration, members of the forces did not know that they were going to have this dilemma imposed on them. They were unaware of the considerable consequences when it came to a referendum.

Am I allowed to talk about parliamentary elections? They seem to be so unimportant. But in an ordinary parliamentary election the servicemen are voting for the same United Kingdom Parliament, although how long that will last, if these proposals ever see the light of day, I do not know. They are voting for the same United Kingdom Parliament so whether they vote in Colchester or somewhere in Scotland to that extent is neither here nor there. Probably at the time they said, "We are going to be here for a few years so we had better register here which will save us the bother of the postal or proxy votes we shall need if we continue to vote in Scotland." So they end up registered in Colchester, based with a Scottish regiment and without a vote.

I appreciate all the logistical difficulties that the Ministers have. But it is a very real problem. It seems to me that it is totally the luck of the draw. My daughter decided to go and live in Italy and the best man of my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Drumadoon decided to come and doctor to the English. My understanding of these matters is that one does not have too much say in the matter. If the regiment moves to Colchester you move with it and that is the end of the discussion. If you are posted to an air force base in the south of England from Lossiemouth you move to the air force base in the south of England. The servicemen are the serving forces of the Crown.

We deserve a better answer than either my right honourable and honourable friends received from Mr. Henry McLeish down the corridor or we received

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at Second Reading. Even a little sympathy and the words, "We are sorry. We know that it is not right, but we cannot think of a way round it" would be at least helpful. To brush these young men and women aside as though they and their votes do not matter does not seem right. My amendment may not be right, I hope, however, that Ministers will give much more consideration to the position of these young men and women. I beg to move.

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