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 Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books

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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Tue 19 Apr 2016, 08:31

Further to Paul’s thread about the persistence of laws concerning Lèse-majesté, and the current German government’s difficulties over old, but still legal, legislation about offending foreign diplomats … I suspect there must actually be quite a lot of old laws and by-laws, still on the statute books, that would appear to have outlived any original usefulness, seem bizarre, or just sound quaintly odd in the modern world.

That hoary old chestnut about it still being legal to shoot a Welshman within the precincts of the city of Chester, if it ever was actually enshrined in law, has long been shown to have been superseded, but there must be others almost as odd. I know that by the Metropolitan Police Act of 1839, still in force, it is forbidden in any street of the city of London, to carry a plank along the pavement, sing indecent songs, beat a rug or doormat against the side of a building, slide on the ice, or ring doorbells and run away.

Any others?
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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Tue 19 Apr 2016, 09:28

Ireland is replete with archaic legislation (around 4,500 statutes yet to be repealed) which were a hangover from pre-independence, and still in force technically merely because no one could be bothered attempting to clean up the mess left by the over-legalistic (and in truth slightly loopy) ex-landlord.

Some of these laws are rather weird.

Ireland is still technically at war with both Denmark and France.
Oatmeal and potatoes, according to an 1814 proclamation, can legally be eaten only by "the lower orders of people". Sale of either to "gentlemen or ladies" is punishable by a fine.
Officers and gentlemen are prohibited from duelling. Anyone else can, though.
Swearing on a Sunday is punishable with imprisonment (as is drinking to excess).
Any of the 1668 rebels at large who are caught alive can still earn their captor a five pound reward.
An 1815 reward for a suitable prayer of thanksgiving for the delivery of Europe from Napoleon by Wellington is as yet unclaimed. The exact amount was never decided "but should not be less than several hundred pounds" - still a rather tasty remuneration today.
The first Wednesday of every month is officially a fast-day as a gesture of atonement and gratitude for delivery from the 1665 bubonic plague outbreak.
Oh - and Catholic churches are still illegal constructions.
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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Tue 19 Apr 2016, 14:39

The Licensing Act Scotland (1976) seems rather harsh:

"Its an offence for any person who occupies or keeps any premises in respect of which a licence is held and who knowingly suffers thieves or reputed thieves or prostitutes or reputed prostitutes or persons convicted of an offence under Section 4 or 5(3), Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, to remain in those premises or knowingly permits thieves or reputed thieves or prostitutes or reputed prostitutes or persons convicted of an offence under Section 4 or 5(3), Misuse of drugs Act 1971 to meet or assemble in the premises."


So if you got done for smoking pot in the 1980s, strictly you're barred for life from any Scottish hostelry with a drinks license, even if you just want to sit quietly in the corner with a glass of lemonade. In fact you don't have to have even been convicted of anything. If someone just reckons it might have been you that once walked off with their wallet, or voices an opinion to the landlord that people think you're a bit of a tart, you're barred .... for life.
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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Tue 19 Apr 2016, 15:27

As interesting as the odd laws that are still valid, are those that are commonly believed to be so ... such as the one about it being illegal for anyone to die in the Houses of Parliament. The issue of dying in Parliament appears to arise from the idea that anyone who dies in a Royal Palace is eligible for a state funeral.

However state funerals are certainly not mandatory. There have been at least four deaths in the grounds of the Palace of Westminster: Guy Fawkes and Sir Walter Raleigh were both executed in the Old Palace yard (the present buildings being the New Palace, built after the fire of 1834); Spencer Perceval, the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated, was shot and died in the lobby of the House of Commons in 1812; and Sir Alfred Billson collapsed and died in the House of Commons ‘Aye’ lobby in 1907, while casting his vote on a sugar duty Bill. None of these men received a state funeral. (Spencer Perceval's was a private funeral at his widow's request).

The Houses of Parliament are a Royal Palace (the Palace of Westminster) and under the Coroners Act 1988, the coroner of the Queen's household had jurisdiction over an inquest into any death in a royal palace. If the Royal Coroner empanelled a jury to investigate the death, all members of the jury had to be chosen from among the members of the Royal Household. This led to some controversy concerning the independence of the jury in the 2006 second inquest into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. It is actually illegal for a Coroner to lead an inquest into a death that occurred outside their jurisdiction, so to simplify affairs the Palace created a de facto rule that deaths in Parliament actually happened elsewhere. The convention adopted was that anyone who dies in Parliament is to have "St Thomas's Hospital" (in Lambeth, just across the Thames) recorded as "Place of death" on their death certificate. So, while it's true there's no specific written law against dying in Parliament, the binding rule was created extra-statutorily by the Palace that any deaths would be recorded as ocurring elsewhere.

The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 abolished of the office of Queen's Coroner, effective 25 July 2013, so the ruling strictly need no longer apply and presumably any deaths in the Houses of Parliament can now be dealt with by the regular City of Westminster Coroner's Court.


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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Tue 19 Apr 2016, 23:39

@Meles meles wrote:

That hoary old chestnut about it still being legal to shoot a Welshman within the precincts of the city of Chester, if it ever was actually enshrined in law, has long been shown to have been superseded,
Still widely believed amongst marcher folk that one silver groat reward will be paid to anyone shooting a Welshman on the Long Mynd. Also credited is that the river Severn has the status of Queen's High Stream and no-one can be forced to pay any license fee to navigate it (though some do stipulate that that only applies to coracles)
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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Wed 20 Apr 2016, 11:25

The 1351 Treason Act is still in force today, although with some significant amendments, as this Guardian article explains:

http://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/oct/17/treason-act-facts-british-extremists-iraq-syria-isis

I think the Daily Mirror tried to have James Hewitt up for treason after the late Diana, Princess of Wales, confessed that she had been violated by him.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treason_Act_1351

One of the acts deemed treasonable is the violation of a royal female, as specified here:

...violated the King's companion, the King's eldest daughter if she was unmarried or the wife of the King's eldest son and heir (following the coming into force of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, this has effect as if the reference was to the eldest son only if he is also the heir[11])...
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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Wed 20 Apr 2016, 14:04

This one has never been implemented:

Easter Act 1928


btw it is illegal to wear armour in the Houses of Parliament
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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Wed 20 Apr 2016, 14:07

Trike wrote:
btw it is illegal to wear armour in the Houses of Parliament

Oh, I don't know. Some of their newer stuff is quite subdued ... who wouldn't vote for this chap?

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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Wed 20 Apr 2016, 14:20

The two stripes running the length of the House of Commons are two sword-lengths apart, to prevent over-excited MPs clashing.  Of course they're no longer necessary as MPs are no longer allowed to wear their swords in the House, and hooks are still provided in the Cloakroom for them to hang their swords up.  I gather one MP, reluctant not to overlook his rights, hangs up a wooden sword in there!

Of course most of these obscure old laws have been superseded without officially being repealed.  I understand that in Jersey 'Trial by Combat' is still an option for an alleged criminal, in theory.  There are some old laws still in force, though.  Islanders have direct right of appeal to the Duke of Normandy (i.e. the Queen) when an offence is committed against them, via the Clameur de Haro.  Originally it applied to any offence, but these days it is restricted to issues concerning land or property.  The injured party ('Crient'), at the site of the issue, must fall on their knees, bare-headed, in front of two bare-headed witnesses, and declare "Haro! Haro! Haro! à l'aide, mon Prince, on me fait tort"  ("Haro!  Haro!  Haro!  Help me, my Prince, I am being wronged").  The alleged offence must then cease until the case has been heard by the Royal Court (acting on behalf of the Duke).  This is known as "raising the Clameur".  If the Clameur has been incorrectly raised, however, or if the Court rules against the person who raised it, they can be fined.  On a more general note, the Queen, as Duke, is the ultimate court of appeal in the Channel Islands, and (albeit very rarely) cases are still occasionally referred to Privy Council.

Some of the feudal rights and responsibilities of the Seigneurs still apply.  For example, should the Duke visit the Island their are required to pay homage and in some cases fulfil obligations - the Seigneur of Trinity must present them with two mallards on a silver platter.  The Seigneur (or, currently, Dame) of La Rocque holds title of Butler to the Duke of Normandy, and traditionally was expected to ride their horse out to sea up to its chest so the Duke could embark from ship and be carried safely to shore.  A literal interpretation of the obligation is no longer enforced, but he/she must still be the first person to greet the Duke on arrival in Jersey.

As an Hereditary Freeman (or Burgess) of Shrewsbury I have theoretically several legal rights and responsibilities.  These include collecting taxes, the right to vote and elect the MP, the right to trade in the town, the right to graze my sheep in the Quarry and Kingsland, the right to send my sons to Shrewsbury School and the obligation to bear arms in defence of the Crown.  Most of these have been superseded by modern legislation are are only of symbolic importance, although I believe the one about Shrewsbury School still stands (shortly after my birth my parents did actually reserve a place at the School, although in the event chose not to send me there).
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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Wed 20 Apr 2016, 15:50

Isn't it still technically an offence to wheel a pram on the pavement? (although this has been overtaken by a judgement), but the law permitting wheelchairs doesn't appear to legitimise prams or pushchairs.
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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Fri 22 Apr 2016, 11:55

This ancient bit of legislation is causing an awful lot of bad feeling. Prospective home-buyers - and sellers - beware. Yet another way the insurance business is cashing in: if the searches reveal such a liability (to cough up as necessary for repairs to the local parish church), you more or less these days have to take out insurance. Not terribly tactful of the Church of England to let this go on.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-26373756



Homeowners living in parishes with churches built before 1536 could be liable for a repair bill

An ancient law which can force homeowners to pay for their local church's repairs is blighting properties and depressing house sales, say campaigners. But what is chancel repair liability and what is the best way to deal with it?

When Elaine Hession opened the letter she almost passed out and her partner Jonathan Hill turned "as white as a ghost".

Last month the couple received a notice from the Land Registry informing them their local church had registered its right to make them contribute to the cost of repairs.

Under chancel repair liability, homeowners living within the parishes of churches built before 1536 can be held liable for costs. The law dates back to the time of Henry VIII and, although actual claims are rare, in 2009 Adrian and Gail Wallbank from Warwickshire sold their home after losing an 18-year legal case and being left with costs of £250,000.


I bet it this law was all Thomas Cromwell's idea - typical of him. And yes, it does affect me.


More info here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chancel_repair_liability
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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Fri 22 Apr 2016, 14:01

In New York it is illegal to jump off a building more than 50 feet in height.

If you do, then the penalty is death.

Also in the Big Apple, divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences is illegal. Unless both parties agree to it.
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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Fri 22 Apr 2016, 14:36

@Temperance wrote:
This ancient bit of legislation is causing an awful lot of bad feeling. Prospective home-buyers - and sellers - beware. Yet another way the insurance business is cashing in: if the searches reveal such a liability (to cough up as necessary for repairs to the local parish church), you more or less these days have to take out insurance. Not terribly tactful of the Church of England to let this go on.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-26373756



Homeowners living in parishes with churches built before 1536 could be liable for a repair bill

An ancient law which can force homeowners to pay for their local church's repairs is blighting properties and depressing house sales, say campaigners. But what is chancel repair liability and what is the best way to deal with it?

When Elaine Hession opened the letter she almost passed out and her partner Jonathan Hill turned "as white as a ghost".

Last month the couple received a notice from the Land Registry informing them their local church had registered its right to make them contribute to the cost of repairs.

Under chancel repair liability, homeowners living within the parishes of churches built before 1536 can be held liable for costs. The law dates back to the time of Henry VIII and, although actual claims are rare, in 2009 Adrian and Gail Wallbank from Warwickshire sold their home after losing an 18-year legal case and being left with costs of £250,000.


I bet it this law was all Thomas Cromwell's idea - typical of him. And yes, it does affect me.


More info here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chancel_repair_liability
You're quite right, Temperance, when I worked in a legal office a chancel repair search had joined the lists of searches that prospective home buyers were advised to have done on the property they were thinking about and there is indeed a form of insurance one can take out now if one does fall within the jurisdiction of such a church.  I thought I heard something (quite a while ago now) that legislation was going to be brought in to change the state of affairs; I thought chancel liability was going to be nullified.  Of course, there is a period between laws being passed and actually coming into effect.
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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Fri 22 Apr 2016, 16:06

@Temperance wrote:
The 1351 Treason Act is still in force today.

I think the Daily Mirror tried to have James Hewitt up for treason after the late Diana, Princess of Wales, confessed that she had been violated by him.


No Comment:

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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Wed 27 Apr 2016, 23:13

Our small row of houses has writ on  our deeds that we may not brew beer. It's the sort of thing that makes for a sudden need to use  home beer kits - if it did not taste so awful  And if we did I'm not sure what might happen in law. Many brew for sale in this area in small shed operations - usually bottled and called by such names as 'Ould Dan's Sockwash.' Micro bars come - and go selling such stuff as do Beer and Ale festivals. Most makers adopt an old sea dog style - tho they have no idea what a real Guernsey is - and would certainly never have worn one on the mudflats in mid winter. I digress.

If I started brewing I assume a licence is needed? is that how they would bring down the law? Most unfair. My sheds are better than most.
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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Thu 28 Apr 2016, 02:42

@Priscilla wrote:
My sheds are better than most.



I note the plural form of the noun.


You will always be "Two Sheds" Priscilla for me now.  Smile



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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Fri 29 Apr 2016, 14:21

@Priscilla wrote:
Our small row of houses has writ on  our deeds that we may not brew beer. It's the sort of thing that makes for a sudden need to use  home beer kits - if it did not taste so awful  And if we did I'm not sure what might happen in law. Many brew for sale in this area in small shed operations - usually bottled and called by such names as 'Ould Dan's Sockwash.' Micro bars come - and go selling such stuff as do Beer and Ale festivals. Most makers adopt an old sea dog style - tho they have no idea what a real Guernsey is - and would certainly never have worn one on the mudflats in mid winter. I digress.

If I started brewing I assume a licence is needed? is that how they would bring down the law? Most unfair. My sheds are better than most.

Priscilla, I expect you know that lots of housing deeds have/had a proviso that one is not supposed to run a commercial enterprise from the property.  I suspect there may be a way around it.  The typing I do is very small potatoes and I do it from one room at home so I'm not expecting a posse to call on me anytime soon.  So many people (not me) have small scale businesses selling stuff on ebay - that sort of thing.  One lady I know did sell secondhand clothes from home in a small way for a time.  She had a poster on one of her front windows advertising this and one day somebody from the Council turned up to measure the room (just the one room) for it to be taxed at a commercial rate - the rest of the house stayed at residential Council tax rate.

Before I realised how toxic the internet can be sometimes I posted a comment about a story on (insert name of a large internet provider).  It was about some ladies who had opened an S&M place in a large house somewhere and some people living nearby were complaining about the noise emanating from the place.  The police apparently said they could do nothing.  I posted that having worked in a legal office I knew that very often the deeds of a property had a caveat that it should not be used for immoral purposes.  Somebody answered to the effect that I was a prude and the women were paying tax (I think they did run a set of books, for an "escort" agency).  No, I was just saying that sometimes there was a provision to that effect in the deeds.  I gave up after that.  P.S.  I'm sure your sheds are very nice - and while I don't know what the deeds for J K Rowling's house say, I doubt anyone is going to bash her for writing her next magnum opus at home if she does so.
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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Fri 29 Apr 2016, 21:40

@Meles meles wrote:
As interesting as the odd laws that are still valid, are those that are commonly believed to be so

One such is the belief in the UK that drivers of hackney carriages have the right to urinate on the offside rear wheel of their vehicle. The Town Police Clauses Act 1847 is often cited as being the piece of legislation granting this permission. In fact it doesn't and never did. So widespread is this belief, however, that as recently as 10 years ago, a peer in the House of Lords insisted that this right existed and furthermore added that the driver was permitted to do this provided that one hand was touching the vehicle during proceedings.
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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Sat 30 Apr 2016, 09:58

What about the one that says it is legal for a pregnant woman to urinate in public as long as it's into a policeman's helmet? That surely cannot be true despite it being widely repeated.
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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Sat 30 Apr 2016, 14:18

That other old one about all Englishmen being required to practise archery has been repealed, but only in 1960! The Unlawful Games Act of 1541 which required every Englishman between the ages of 17 and 60 (with various exemptions) to keep a longbow and regularly practise archery, (it wasn't so much about defence of the realm as to stop young men frittering their time and money away, playing bowls or gambling at dice), was finally repealed by the Betting and Gaming Act (1960).
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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Sat 30 Apr 2016, 15:55

Some of these old laws seem exceedingly sesible to me though, for example James I's Fut ball Act of 1424 which stated that it is statut and the king forbiddis that na man play at the fut ball under the payne of iiij d
That one wasn't repealed until 1906, more's the pity, but I suppose the women's game might have still been allowed.

The same goes for the later acts (1457, 1470 and 1490) which forbade the playing of golf as well. What might this country have been like if men hadn't been able to escape to the terraces or the clubhouse and had to do something more useful instead?

Are there any other old laws that you would like to see revived?
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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Sun 19 Jun 2016, 19:07

And whilst we're talking about illogical laws on the statute books ... what about the rules for who may, and who may not, vote in Thursday's EU referendum.

The regulations in themselves are very simple. To vote in the EU referendum you must:
be registered to vote, 
be be 18 or over on the day of the referendum,  
be a British, Irish or Commonwealth citizen,
be resident at an address in the UK or Gibraltar (or a British citizen living abroad who has been registered to vote in the UK in the last 15 years).

So for example someone who is French, Italian or German by birth, who has been living and working in the UK for many years, perhaps married to a British spouse, whose children are deemed British and attend school in the UK, and who owns property and pays all their tax in the UK ... doesn't get a vote. But their neighbour, a student perhaps, from maybe Australia, Canada or New Zealand, living in the UK only to get a degree, or maybe just visiting while working their way around the world before they finally go home, does get a vote. Similarly someone living in Britain who has a Greek passport doesn't get a vote, but someone living in Britain who has a Cypriot passport does. Someone from Corsica or Sardinia doesn't get a vote, but someone from Malta does. A British-born citizen living in Boulogne, Dieppe, Brussels or Dublin doesn't get a vote ... but an Irish-born citizen living in Belfast or Derry does.

Indeed whilst most EU-born residents in the UK do not get a vote, anyone resident in the UK with a passport from the following countries does ... that's anyone from:

Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Nigeria, Uganda, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore, Kenya, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Jamaica, Antigua, Barbuda, Samoa, Kiribati. Seychelles, The Bahamas, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Barbados, Solomon Islands, Belize, Maldives, Malta, Sri Lanka, Brunel, Darussalam, Mauritius, Swaziland, Cameroon, Mozambique, Tanzania, Namibia, Tonga, Cyprus, Nauru, Trinidad, Tobago, Dominica, Tuvalu, Fiji Islands, The Gambia, Ghana, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Grenada, Rwanda, Guyana, St Lucia, St Vincent & The Grenadines.

Meanwhile all British passport holders who have been living outside the UK for more than 15 years (unless they are diplomats or in the armed services) have no vote at all, despite the referendum having far more effect on them than most people resident in the UK. Many of these disenfranchised citizens may well still own property and pay tax in the UK. So what happened to "no taxation without representation"?


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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Sun 19 Jun 2016, 21:28

In France, if you hold a French passport, even if you don't reside in France, you can still vote in all national plebisites above local elections ... so that's all General Elections, Presidential Elections, European Parliamentary electons and any national referenda. There is no time limit to this eligibility. Indeed ex-pats comprise their own voting district and are represented by their own MP (actually I think their are several, geographically distinct electoral districts for ex-pats, each with their own MPs), so that all French citizens living around the world, hors-France, but nevertheless with their own local concerns, are still democratically represented in the French Senate. Remember also that nearly all the major French overseas territories, such as Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, Reunion etc, are all considered departments of France itself (a department is like an English county) and so all these overseas territories already send Deputies (MPs) to the national Senate.

Maybe I'm biased, but it seems a much fairer and more logical system than that in Britain.


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PostSubject: Re: Obsolete, bizarre or quaint laws still on the statute books   Sun 19 Jun 2016, 22:09

@Meles meles wrote:
In France, if you hold a French passport, even if you don't reside in France, you can still vote in all national plebisites above local elections ... so that's all General Elections, Presidential Elections, European Parliamentary electons and any national referenda. There is no time limit to this eligibility. Indeed ex-pats comprise their own voting district and are represented by their own MP (actually I think their are several, geographically distinct distincts, each with their own MPs), so that all French citizens living around the world, hors-France, but nevertheless with their own local concerns, are still democratically represented in the French Senate. Remember also that nearly all the major French overseas territories, such as Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, Reunion etc, are all considered departments of France itself (a department is like an English county) and so all these overseas territories already send Deputies (MPs) to the national Senate.

Maybe I'm biased, but it seems a much fairer and more logical system than that in Britain.


Thank you for the message before this one, I learned a lot from it...

"Maybe I'm biased, but it seems a much fairer and more logical system than that in Britain."

Completely agree with you Meles meles.

Kind regards from your friend Paul.
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