ALL 16-year olds deserve to be heard – Peers

Parliament should take a ‘historic opportunity’ to examine the case for 16 and 17 year olds to be able to vote, a cross-party group of peers, argued today (Monday).

Former Labour Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis, former Conservative Government Whip, Lord Lucas, and Independent Crossbench Peer, Baroness Young of Hornsey, made the pitch in support of a Private Members’ Bill tabled today (Monday) by former Lib Dem Shadow Leader of the Commons, Lord Tyler.

The Voting Age (Comprehensive Reduction) Bill would make a simple amendment to existing electoral law, extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds for ALL elections and referendums in the United Kingdom.  The move follows an announcement last week that the Scottish Government intends to permit 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the referendum on Scottish Independence, in 2014.

Commenting, Lord Tyler said:
“I have long supported votes at 16, but it isn’t good enough for Scots young people to be heard, just once, on this vital question, and then ignored thereafter, and worse still that English, Welsh and Northern Irish young people will continue not having a say at all.  What about the expected referendum on Europe?  I visit sixth forms regularly, and find students there more engaged and knowledgeable about current affairs, the state of the world and the state of our country, than many of the older people I bump into here in the House of Lords.  It is time to give them a say.”

Former Labour Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis said:
“Voting is a critical responsibility of citizenship, and the political debate and campaigns which precede voting are the most intense exercise of democracy in our national life. Young people should be able to vote at 16, so that political debate and democracy fully include them, and so that they start to consider and discuss while still at school how to use their vote.”

Former Conservative Government Whip, Lord Lucas said:
“In this country, we regard a vote as a right. Rights should go with responsibilities. In this country, after our various efforts over past years, 16 is the age at which we accord children responsibilities. That is when we throw them out into the world, when we put the burdens of the world on their shoulders and that is when we should accord them the right to vote.  And as part of the citizenship curriculum, children could be encouraged to register for voting and encouraged to participate in whatever elections are taking place at the same time.”

Independent Crossbencher, Baroness Young of Hornsey said:
“It’s no good politicians simply wringing their hands about a supposed lack of political engagement among young people.  The young people I meet are highly engaged with political issues, but they see little connection with the big political institutions.  Giving 16 year olds the vote could help to repair that disconnection, and ensure those whose future will be most affected by the decisions politicians take today at least have their voice heard.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors:
1. Lord Tyler’s Voting Age (Comprehensive Reduction Bill) will be available online shortly
2. Lord Adonis has written in Total Politics about Votes at 16 http://www.totalpolitics.com/opinion/329052/andrew-adonis-power-to-the-pupil.thtml
3. Lord Lucas introduced a similar Bill to extend the franchise in 2003.  See the debate on it here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200203/ldhansrd/vo030109/text/30109-02.htm#30109-02_head0
4. Baroness Young of Hornsey was the star of 1980s’ children’s TV show Metal Mickey. After a career working for a wide variety of arts organisations, Lola Young became head of culture at the Greater London Authority between 2001–04. She was a leading advocate of the recent Bill to reform the House of Lords

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