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Voting Age

Volume 403: debated on Monday 7 April 2003

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What representations the Electoral Commission has received on reducing the voting age to 16. [107083]

Mr. Peter Viggers
(representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission)

The votes at 16 campaign has made such representations to the Commission. It is also aware of support for moves to reduce the minimum voting age on the part of several parliamentarians, political parties and other bodies.

Will the hon. Gentleman try to ensure that, through the representations that it receives, the Electoral Commission tries to listen to the voices of young people on this issue? Those young people are asking why they can pay tax, get married and join the armed forces at 16, if they cannot vote.

Yes, indeed. The Commission is aware that there has been strong support expressed in some quarters that the voting age should be reduced. The purpose of the fundamental review that the Commission now has in hand is to gauge how wide that support is.

Has my hon. Friend, whose presence answering questions I warmly welcome, received any even more stupid representations in regard to votes at 14?

Yes. [Laughter.] I say "yes" to acknowledge that I have heard the question. The Commission has put in hand a wide-ranging survey, which was announced on 27 February. Its timetable is to consult over the summer and early autumn of 2003, with publication of a final report, with recommendations, in early 2004. It is, perhaps, worth reporting, if one is seeking to improve the turnout at general elections, that the overall turnout in the 2001 general election was 59 per cent., but the estimated turnout among 18 to 24-year-olds was 39 per cent.