Labour calls for ‘full and urgent’ inquiry into denied votes at the EU elections

Cabinet Office minister Kevin Foster. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Cabinet Office minister Kevin Foster. Photograph: Parliament TV. - Credit: Archant

Labour has called for an urgent inquiry into the European election fiasco which saw many EU citizens denied a vote.

MPs demanded for Cabinet Office minister Kevin Foster to resign for ignoring the warnings, as he also swerved demands for him to apologise to voters who reported they were denied their right to vote.

Foster told MPs the Electoral Commission will review the recent EU poll and the government will "consider carefully" its findings.

EU citizens are only allowed to vote once at a European parliamentary election. Those from another member state but wishing to vote in the UK were required to complete a separate application and declaration, known as a UC1.

MPs previously asked for the deadline to complete the form to be extended beyond May 7 given the initial uncertainty over whether the UK would take part in the elections, amid the government's initial desire for Brexit to have occurred before this date.

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Labour former minister Ben Bradshaw said Foster was warned repeatedly about the danger of people who did "all the right things" but had their "names crossed out" when they arrived at the polling station.

He said: "This is an absolute scandal. Does this not reveal a government that did not investigate properly the proven subversion and law-breaking in the referendum has absolutely no interest in the integrity of our democratic process and he should resign."

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Foster, in his reply, said: "Oh dear."

He said the police and Electoral Commission are independent of government.

Earlier, Foster responded to Labour's urgent question by saying the Electoral Commission will review the recent EU poll "as they review any other electoral event and look at any issues raised".

He added: "As a responsible government we will of course consider carefully what they say."

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Cat Smith said: "The numbers of non-UK EU citizens who were reportedly denied a vote in the European elections should be a source of shame for this government.

"These are people who live and work here and contribute to our communities and yet for the past three years they've been insulted, exploited, asked to apply to stay in their own homes, and now denied a voice in an election which has massive implications for their futures.

"Has the government learnt nothing from the Windrush scandal about the consequences of shutting citizens out of public life?"

Foster said the government had considered extending the registration period but had to share the declarations of whether UK-based EU citizens would vote in the UK or their home country "sufficiently in advance of polling day".

Liberal Democrat former minister Tom Brake said: "We see shocking complacency from the minister and a complete denial of any government responsibility for this shambles."

Angela Eagle, a Labour former minister, later told Foster to "get the smirk off his face" as she raised concerns.

Labour MP Barry Sheerman said: "I feel sorry for him. Here he is like the last boy left on the burning deck of the ship."

Foster was repeatedly asked to apologise on behalf of the government, but Labour's Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) said: "It really does seem that sorry is the hardest word, doesn't it?"

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