Stephen Williams MP today lead a historic debate in the House of Commons on extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds. The motion submitted, which stated that, “This House believes that the age of eligibility for voting in all elections and referenda in the United Kingdom should be reduced to 16”, won a vote in the Commons with 119 voting in favour, and 46 against.
The British Youth Council – which coordinates the Votes at 16 coalition and runs the UK Youth Parliament – had been lobbying supporters in parliament to support the motion, contacting over 200 MPs, urging them to attend the debate. BYC also attended with a group of young people and MYPs (pictured above) who were present to lobby their MPs.
Many MPs were supportive of the motion, which sparked lively debate in the House, the balance of argument responding to a growing awareness and participation of young people in politics.
Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams, who introduced the motion, said:
“The time has come for a vital step in the renewal of Britain’s democracy. Time to let another one and a half million people take part in voting for the people who run the country. Giving the right to vote to sixteen and seventeen year olds now has widespread support across the political spectrum.” You can read more his support for the campaign on his blog.
Julie Hilling MP – Honorary President of BYC – said:
“This was a great result for young people – as politicians from all parties increasingly recognise the arguments in favour of their greater participation in democracy. Organisations like the British Youth Council and UK Youth Parliament have been campaigning on this for years, and this vote will send encouragement to the next generation that their views, and perhaps votes, will be taken more seriously in politics.”
Labour MP Natascha Engel said:
“If they (16 and 17 year olds) are able to die for their country, surely they should be able to help decide whether the country goes to war in the first place.”
BYC spokesperson Marc Kidson said:
“That the Commons debated the next great extension of the franchise is a very positive step. It reflects the boost to the cause from the momentous decision on the Scottish independence referendum, and a growing momentum towards recognising that 16 is the right age to become a full member of our political community.”
“It’s good to see that votes at 16 finally being taken seriously – we are mature young people who deserve a vote.”
Liam Cutler, MYP for North Yorkshire, said:
“The debate on votes at 16 is a huge step forward. During the debate, hopefully MPs will decide 16 and 17 year olds should be given the vote, which may ultimately lead to a change in the law. Even though 16 and 17 year olds may have a long wait still to be able to vote, it is now closer than ever. We still need to convince as many MPs as possible, to ensure a positive outcome from the debate, rather than it being pushed back to the sidelines.”
You can watch footage of the debate from 6pm on Thursday 24th January on BBC Democracy Live.
Tell us what you think
Should the voting age be reduced to 16? Take part in the poll on the front page of the BYC website, and let us know.