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Voting at 16

Volume 672: debated on Thursday 27 February 2020

As the Minister will be aware, my country of Wales has, along with Scotland, already passed legislation to give young people aged 16 the vote. It is a positive move and the right thing to do; it will enable young people to engage in the political process and influence decisions that affect their lives. Surely it is time that the Minister followed our excellent lead and listened to what young people want; it is their future, after all.

If it is good enough for the Welsh and the Scottish, why on earth are 16 and 17-year-olds in England and, indeed, Northern Ireland not entitled to the vote? It is a question of equality. If someone can go to war for their country and pay their taxes for the country, we should extend the franchise to them. From Peterloo to the extension of the franchise to women through the women’s suffrage movement, the north-west has a proud history of extending the franchise. Come on: do the right thing for the English, Minister, and give 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote and, indeed, those in Northern Ireland as well.

That was a brilliant question in the style of orator Henry Hunt at Peterloo, but I am afraid we have to accept that in the United Kingdom the devolved Administrations quite rightly make decisions within their competence but the UK Government have no intention of altering the franchise in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggests. We are getting on with the people’s priorities: investing in our NHS and fighting crime, improving education and levelling up the economy. Those things are more important than constitutional changes.