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MPs push for the vote at 16

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 24, 2013

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MPs will today call on the Government to reduce the voting age to 16, as promised by the Liberal Democrats in their 2010 election campaign.

The Labour manifesto pledged to give MPs a free vote on extending the franchise to 16-year-olds.

Today’s Commons debate will be led by Lib Dem Stephen Williams, who claimed the move would be “a vital step in the renewal of Britain’s democracy”.

The backbench motion calls for 16-year-olds to be given the vote in all elections and referenda.

If MPs back the call it will not bind the Government, but will increase pressure on ministers to act.

Scottish 16-year-olds will be allowed to vote in the referendum on independence and Mr Williams, who represents Bristol West, said other countries had also given the vote to citizens at that age.

He said: “Liberal Democrats want to build a fairer society, which is why I believe the time has come for a vital step in the renewal of Britain’s democracy.

“Giving the right to vote to 16 and 17-year-olds now has widespread support across the political spectrum.

“Several of the world’s largest democracies also give this right to their young people. I hope that MPs will vote with me today and put our 16 and 17-year-olds on the same footing as their peers.”

Other signatories to the motion include Labour’s Fabian Hamilton and Hugh Bayley, Tory former minister Sir Peter Bottomley, Lib Dem Julian Huppert, the SNP’s Pete Wishart and Green Caroline Lucas.

In November, Wells Blue School pupils so impressed commentator Matthew Parris that he changed his view on lowering the voting age.

Prior to his visit to the school, the former MP had a “visceral bias” against the idea of giving the vote to 16 to 18-year-olds. But in the Spectator, he wrote that, despite the pupils voting against a change, they “debated this with such cogency that I concluded they ought to have the vote”.

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