Natascha Engel

On 18 October 2010, MPs debated whether to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the 2011 referendum on the voting system used for our General Elections.

Natascha Engel MP (pictured) put forward an amendment to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill in the House of Commons. This amendment called for anyone who is 16 or 17 on the day of the Referendum on the voting system, and who meets all other criteria to vote in a General Election, to be able to vote in the referendum.

Labour MP Natascha Engel described her amendment as a unique opportunity and said extending entitlement to participate in the referendum would show that when 16 year olds take part in an election, democracy does not crumble and sky does not cave in; indeed, it might strengthen democracy.

Unfortunately the amendment was defeated; 346 to 196 votes but the Votes at 16 Coalition felt that this had been the most positive debate about lowering the voting age to 16 in Parliament yet. Only one MP derided the idea of young people being allowed to participate in the democratic process and the mood in Parliament about the issue had clearly changed. Natascha Engel was supported by over 180 Labour MPs and received the backing from members of the Scottish National Party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, the Green Party, and the Alliance Party. Many MPs stressed the political interest and activism of young people, including within trades unions. Several described being very frustrated in their own youth at being denied the vote.

Read the debate in the House of Commons here.