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Mr. Barnes: It is entirely inappropriate that people should be able to choose several main areas and main concerns. If they are lucky enough to own all sorts of property, good for them, but why should they have all sorts of influence over what the authorities do in those areas? Remember, they have a vote in general elections, which determine what the law of the land will be. That includes decisions on local government finance, the standard spending assessment and other measures, so they are in the system and they are in it on the same basis as the poorest person in society, who should--at least on election day--have the same right as the mightiest in the land.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton): Is not there an argument converse to that put by the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan)? If there is no taxation without representation, there ought to be no representation without taxation. There are consequences to people having a right to influence the area in which they live simply because they live there; people who do not live in that area should not have a right to such influence. That being so, the hon. Gentleman will no doubt vote with me on my amendment to abolish the overseas vote.

Mr. Barnes: I am certainly with my right hon. Friend in connection with the overseas vote. In respect of our earlier debate, I tabled amendments concerning people from overseas who have settled in this country having the right to vote on the same basis as Commonwealth and Republic of Ireland citizens. I used exactly the same argument and it should apply to who we decide to enfranchise in this country. It should also operate in relation to people who go overseas. We should argue for them to be enfranchised overseas, but once they return they should be put back on the register.

Mr. Hogg: I want the position to be made absolutely clear. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that, although it is right that no one can have more than one vote in a general election, he is proposing to take away existing rights in respect of local government elections in which local government electors can vote more than once if they have a number of properties in different local government areas.

Mr. Barnes: On this issue, I am in the tradition of the Chartists and the suffragettes and people who believe in one person, one vote. That arrangement should have been entered into years ago. The system that operates in general elections should apply to local government elections. There should not be privileged people who, because of their wealth, have more votes than other people. Members of Parliament with residencies in London and in their constituencies where they mainly reside should not be able to vote in two places. That would be open to abuse. There should be one person, one vote in any election.

Mr. Kaufman: The right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) forgets what took place not under the Chartists but under the Attlee

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Government, when people had two votes in local elections: they had the residential vote and the business vote. They were able to vote twice in the same area or in two different areas. The Conservative party has always supported fancy franchises.

Mr. Barnes: The points made by Conservative Members have a resonance in the past. People also had two votes for the university seats, which were abolished in 1948. We should not allow a system in which people have two votes. In a democracy, everyone in the country who is covered by its laws and operations should have a say in elections on the basis of equality. Equality means one person, one vote.

Mr. Grieve: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his forbearance. Earlier, we discussed the issue of foreign residents. The hon. Gentleman must know that one of the consequences of our tolerance of dual nationalities is that many people can vote in this country and in another country at general elections. Under the principles enunciated by the hon. Gentleman, they also have an unfair advantage, one which he was previously prepared to promote and extend, but is now seeking to restrict. I do not follow the logic of his argument.

Mr. Barnes: Perhaps in time we will put that right. I believe that people should have the vote in the place in which they are resident. If people have dual nationality, that should make no difference. They may reside in a country of which they are not a national, and that is where they should vote. There is nothing inconsistent about the principle that I was propounding.

There may be a problem with students. Under single registration, where should a student register? The Bill improves the operation of postal voting. If students register in the place where they study, that should present no great difficulty when they go back to their home residence during the long summer break. However, if we had a modern, rolling electoral registration system, students could decide that while they are settled in the area where they are studying that is their sole and main place of residence, but during the long summer vacation their home is their sole and main place of residence, and their voting rights could be transferred accordingly. The system should allow us to handle that.

The problem that I have with the other amendments is that, unless some of the later amendments that I have tabled are carried, they will detract from the principle that I am trying to establish. It is important that we consider whether double registration should be allowed, or whether we should have rolling registers to prevent that. Difficulties may arise if people can vote in different areas for local government elections and for parliamentary elections and by-elections.

8.15 pm

Mr. Hogg: The hon. Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) should cast his mind back to what he said, very eloquently, in the first debate. He made the point that if people are in the United Kingdom, even if they are residents and citizens of an overseas country, they should be entitled to vote in UK elections. He justified that by arguing that they are affected by the consequences of Government policy in the

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United Kingdom, so they should have a say in the choice of that Government. That was a respectable argument--he knows that I disagree, but no matter, because it had a certain amount of force.

Let us consider his argument in the context of what he is now proposing. I have no great difficulty with amendment No. 30 with regard to the general election. We have long accepted that people should have only one vote in a general election. It could be on the basis of a main or sole residence. That is not something that I would particularly recommend, because the present law has caused no problems, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) about the right of choice. However, that is not a fundamental difficulty.

What is a fundamental difficulty is when we come to local government elections. The point that I was trying to make in my intervention on the hon. Member for North-East Derbyshire was that, if people have more than one property in more than one local government area, they inevitably pay more than one set of local authority taxes. It would be quite wrong if they were under an obligation to pay taxes but had no say over the composition of the local authority that levied those taxes. The proposition that those who pay taxes must have a say in the choice of the authority that levies them is essential to democracy within the society of which we have been speaking.

Mr. David Heath: Under the present system of council tax, if people have multiple residences they establish one place as their principle residence and pay an abated council tax for the others. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that they should pay the full council tax for each residence and have equal democratic rights?

Mr. Hogg: In a mobile society, some people inevitably have to have more than one residence. They may not necessarily have ownership: they may be tenants. Many hon. Members, because of the nature of our work, have to have two residences. That is not confined to Members of Parliament. Many people in society have to have two residences, and some of them are not on particularly large incomes. We should consider the propriety of levying two full sets of council tax on two or more properties. Those people would face too large a burden if we were to decide to do that. I would not go along that road, because it would have an inequitable result for people on modest incomes.

Mr. Barnes: What cuts me to the quick is the criticism that I am inconsistent. People have often said that I am consistent--consistently wrong. I like to be logically correct in these matters. I have not argued that the payment of taxes should be the basis for registration; I have said that if people live in a society and are affected by the decisions made on a whole host of issues--health and safety, the environment and others--they should have a say in its operation. It is more difficult to use that argument against me on the local government franchise, because people have one vote according to their sole or main place of residence.

Mr. Hogg: The hon. Gentleman is right. In the first debate, he used the term "affected". He, of course, had in mind taxation, but I am perfectly willing to accept that he

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was also referring to the other consequences of living in a society, such as the impact of the criminal law on people's activities. That is also true, albeit to a lesser extent, in local government areas.

Local authorities have the power--albeit a much lesser power--to regulate life in their communities. It is not just a question of their levying tax; they do many other things that impact on the citizen. The argument is not confined to taxation: it relates to the power of regulation vested in local authorities.

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