I support lowering the voting age to 16, and at the 2017 General Election I stood on a manifesto which pledged to reduce the voting age. Lowering the voting age would strengthen our democracy and enable the voices and opinions of young people to be properly heard.
At 16, young people are eligible to pay tax, get married and join the army, and should be able to play a full part in elections. Extending the franchise should be accompanied by improved citizenship education. This is an important way to ensure young people are engaged and informed in the political process.
The lowering of the voting age for Scottish parliamentary and local elections and the plans to do so for elections in Wales is a welcome development. However, I am disappointed that the current UK government continues to oppose votes at 16 for parliamentary elections and other elections in England.
While the European Union Referendum Bill was being considered during the last Parliament, the government consistently opposed amendments which would have allowed 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the EU referendum.
There are a number of Private Members’ Bills currently before Parliament which seek to reduce the voting age to 16 in parliamentary and other elections. For example, the Representation of the People (Young People’s Enfranchisement and Education) Bill is sponsored by my colleague Jim McMahon MP and is scheduled to have its second reading debate in the House of Commons on November 3. I support this Bill.
While Private Members’ Bills are not often successful, they are a very good way for individual parliamentarians to raise important issues. I will follow the progress of the Representation of the People (Young People’s Enfranchisement and Education) Bill and any similar Bills closely.