'We Don't Want Wales to Drift Away from the United Kingdom' Welsh Expats Ask to Have a Vote in the Referendum

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Byline: Matt Withers

EMINENT expats hs ave demanded the rights of Welsh people all over the world to vote in any referendum on full law-making powers for the National Assembly.

A letter, signed by 36 eminent expats including former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Howe and former Lords leader Lord Cranbourne, was presented yesterday to Sir Emyr Jones-Parry, chair of the All Wales Convention, by former Tory Europe Minister Lord Garel-Jones.

Sir Emyr is currently chairing the Convention on behalf of the Assembly Government with a remit to test the public desire for further powers for the Assembly ahead of a possible referendum before 2011.

Voicing concerns about the granting of any further powers to the Assembly, the letter states: "At this stage we are aware that the argument is not between a United Kingdom and an independent Wales, but we believe the move to full legislative powers not only is a significant step along this path - but is seen as such.

"Therefore we see a defence of the Union as absolutely crucial to this debate." It adds: "Should a referendum be felt appropriate, we would ask that Welsh men and women not resident in Wales, but who can demonstrate a patrial connection to the principality, be permitted to vote.

"It is already the case in Europe that a large number of member states allow non-resident citizens to vote in elections - Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands to name but a few." The letter expresses the view that those living outside Wales may be in a better position to form a judgement as they have no "vested interest".

Yesterday Lord Garel-Jones, born in Gorseinon, Swansea, said: "Even though I've never felt the need to walk around with a daffodil in my button or with a leek sticking out of my ear I am Welsh, full stop, and I neither apologise for it nor do I flaunt it. It's just a fact of life.

"And I've never been involved in Welsh politics at all, but when I heard that all this was going on I just thought, well, there must be a lot of people like me who are proper Welsh and who might have a view. …