Tory MPs speak against Julie Morgan MP’s Private Members’ Bill in favour of lowering the voting age to sixteen.
Brooks Newmark: "One of the big challenges is that it is hard enough to get 18 to 21-year-olds to vote, yet they too, at an earlier stage, called for more representation and wanted a say in politics? Surely we should focus our energies on trying to figure out how we are going to motivate them to get voting instead of continually trying to lower the age limit."
Nigel Evans: "There has to be a dividing line somewhere, and one could argue that it could be 17, 16, 15, 14 or 12, but 18 seems to be the appropriate voting age in the vast majority of places in the world."
Christopher Chope: "Her Bill is not even supported by members of the United Kingdom Youth Parliament, who, when they met in the other place in May and were asked to vote on what they regarded as the three most important issues to campaign on this year, declined to vote in favour of this proposal because they thought that there were three other issues of greater importance?"
Greg Knight: "Most 16-year-olds have the mental capacity to vote. The problem lies in the fact that many of them have not been educated at school about our democratic system. It is a problem of education, rather than of the mental incapacity or immaturity of a 16-year-old."
Mark Harper: "By saying that someone becomes an adult at 18 and someone below that age is a child, we are not, in any sense, disparaging children; we are simply saying that a line has to be drawn. Let us follow the hon. Lady’s argument to its logical conclusion. If we were to move the line for voting to 16, would we not implicitly be saying that there was something not worthy or not appropriate about 14 and 15-year-olds voting? There would be no logical reason not just to drop the voting age all the way down to zero. The fact is that there must be a line somewhere, and wherever it is drawn there will be people on the wrong side of it who have the maturity to take such a decision. The right place for that line to stay is at 18… If we are to say to young people that we do not think that they are sufficiently responsible or competent to take a decision about driving a motor car, using a firearm, consuming alcohol or buying cigarettes, it would be extraordinary to say at the same time that we think that they are mature enough to make a decision about the future of our country and about people who might deploy our armed forces. We know how the Liberal Democrats feel about the decisions made by the Government about committing our armed forces. Those are important and serious decisions, and I cannot see how it would be wise to say that a young person under 18 could not consume alcohol but could vote for a Government who could authorise the use of force in an armed conflict. That is completely inconsistent."
Eleanor Laing: "My main argument against the Bill concerns the question of rights. Correctly, we often discuss rights in this House, but whenever we create a right, there must be a corresponding responsibility. If there is no responsibility, then there is no right, because rights without responsibilities are meaningless. By giving people the right to vote, we are also conferring on them the burden of the responsibility to vote. I argue that 16 and 17-year-olds are gradually given plenty of responsibilities as they move on through life and grow up. It is not right to pile on all those responsibilities at once. Children of younger age groups have to be protected and 16 and 17-year-olds still have to be nurtured and helped along the way while they gradually make the transition from childhood to adulthood."
Stewart Jackson attacks LibDem Lynne Featherstone for comparing the issue to women’s campaign for the vote: "The hon. Lady is making a completely fallacious comparison. Women were imprisoned, and, in some cases, they were tortured and they died. They sacrificed their own lives and chained themselves to parts of this building to secure, rightly, the universal franchise for both genders. That bears no comparison with whether a 16-year-old or a 15-year-old can be bothered to fill in a form so that they can vote in 2008."
Exchange between Julie Morgan MP, sponsor of the Bill, and Mark Harper:
Julie Morgan: "The phrase “no taxation without representation” has been used by many groups struggling for political rights over the years, but it applies no less to 16 and 17-year olds working and paying tax who are denied the vote, because there is no age limit on paying income tax and national insurance. Tax is taken on full or part-time work including tips and bonuses, and the most up-to-date figures show that 548,000 16 and 17-year-olds are in some form or employment."
Mark Harper: "The fact is that many children, far younger than 16, pay indirect taxes on the money that they spend. Is the hon. Lady suggesting that a 10-year-old who goes to buy a CD on which VAT is payable should get the vote?"
Julie Morgan: "I do not think that that is a valid intervention."