Lords back lower voting age in EU Referendum

Adam Offord
Friday, November 20, 2015

The House of Lords has backed a motion calling for 16- and 17-year-olds to be allowed to vote in the referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union (EU).

An amendment to the EU Referendum Bill that called for the voting age to be lowered was backed by 293 peers and rejected by 211.

The amendment, proposed by Labour’s shadow minister for foreign affairs in the Lords Baroness Eluned Morgan, received support from 155 Labour, 91 Liberal Democrat and 36 crossbench peers, along with 10 from other parties.

However, just one Conservative peer backed the motion, in light of the government so far refusing to consider lowering the voting age.

Baroness Morgan urged Prime Minister David Cameron to change his mind through a video message before the debate.

Speaking during the debate she said: “It is important for us to understand that young people are and can be enthusiastic citizens who take that responsibility seriously.

“At 16, they are taking decisions on the future direction of their lives, deciding which A-levels to take or which vocational courses to follow, and if they find someone they want to marry, they can even do that.

“If they are responsible enough to deal with that, why should they not have a say in the future of their nation?”

Youth campaigners have praised the Lords’ decision.

Ife Grillo, vice-chair of campaigns and communications at the British Youth Council, said it is great to know “common sense” has prevailed after MPs rejected proposals earlier in the year.
"Young people have been knocking on the door of democracy for decades and Scottish 16- and 17-year-olds have already proven that we’re ready during the referendum last year – that’s proof enough that young people are more than capable of taking part in this historical vote,” he said.
Megan Dunn, president of the National Union of Students, which is a member of the Votes at 16 Coalition, said it is only right that young people should get a say because they will “bear the consequences of the EU referendum vote”.

“It’s very positive that peers have agreed with this common-sense case,” she said. “The pressure is now on MPs to also recognise the right for young people to have their voice heard.”

Taking to Twitter, shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn and Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron also praised the move.

The bill will now return to the House of Commons where MPs will vote on the Lords amendment.

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