Neil Hamilton, MS for Mid & West Wales and Leader of UKIP Wales, has hit out at the Welsh Government for extending voting rights to those who have not taken out citizenship.
Speaking in ‘virtual plenary’ yesterday, Mr Hamilton, a member of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs committee, was commenting on a move to amend a clause in the Local Government and Elections (Wales ) Bill.
Mr Hamilton said he totally opposed to granting the right to vote to foreigners in Wales, if they were not prepared to take the ultimate step of citizenship.
“The right to vote is one of the most important of the rights of citizenship. You should have made a long-term commitment to this country in order to be worthy of it.
“If you are only resident in this country for a relatively short period of time and you have no intention, possibly, of making your residence in this country permanent, personally I do not see why you should be given the right to determine the country’s long-term interests.
“Most EU countries do not grant rights such as we are being asked to grant. Certainly, the bigger countries like France, Germany, Italy, and Poland do not allow foreigners the right to vote in their elections.
“Ultimately, this is all about your commitment to the country in which you live; it is not simply a transaction that you receive a vote in exchange for paying taxes. After all, all sorts of people pay taxes simply by the fact of purchasing something in a shop and paying VAT, but that, in itself, shouldn’t be a justification for granting them a vote.
“Of course, we all know why this is being done. It is a relic of two years ago, when it was developed as part of the Labour Party’s policy. It is a reprehensible reason for making a change of this kind, which has very wide repercussions indeed. But Labour’s dwindling voter base, of course, has had to be shored up in various ways.”
The vote for the amendment opposing the move showed 13 were in favour, there were two abstentions and 36 against.
Mr Hamilton said he was disappointed but not surprised at the vote.
“It is fundamentally wrong to allow ‘qualifying foreign citizens’ to vote in local government elections in Wales. UKIP voted against the general principles of this bill and want no part of its proposals as drafted at the end of stage 2.
“UKIP does not want this bill passed. It wants to scrap the Senedd and the Welsh Government. Devolution has failed the people of Wales.”