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Voting Age

Oral Answers to Questions — Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 10th March 2010.

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Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Labour, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill 11:30 am, 10th March 2010

What recent representations the Minister for young citizens and youth engagement has received on the merits of lowering the voting age to 16 years.

Photo of Dawn Butler Dawn Butler Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office) (Young Citizens and Youth Engagement)

Representations have been made by various groups, including the British Youth Council and the UK Youth Parliament. The Government are absolutely determined to increase the engagement of young people in politics and will continue to review how best that is done, and that will include consideration of lowering the voting age to 16. We are also very innovative: today, we have the march on Government, and I will be on Habbo, where we have already had 40,000 visits and almost 1,000 members, to engage with young people.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Labour, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for an extremely comprehensive reply. In view of the fact that the debate on voting at 16 is clearly ongoing, will she inform me and, of course, the House about what action the Government are taking to ensure that citizenship education is consistent with our objectives of improving the democratic system?

Photo of Dawn Butler Dawn Butler Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office) (Young Citizens and Youth Engagement)

My right hon. Friend makes a valid point about citizenship education. The Government believe that it is crucial to provide the best citizenship education for young people. The Department for Children, Schools and Families is funding 11 higher education institutions to provide free continuing professional development courses for teachers, and certificates and masters-level credits will be awarded when they are completed. On 18 March, we will have a debate right here in the House in Committee Room 14 to discuss citizenship education.

Photo of Gregory Campbell Gregory Campbell Shadow Minister (Transport), Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Would it not be more appropriate to try to ensure an increase in the participation of the 18-to-25 age group, before considering lowering the voting age to 16?

Photo of Dawn Butler Dawn Butler Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office) (Young Citizens and Youth Engagement)

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point, but one age group should not be considered to the exclusion of any other. In fact, it is habit forming when people, especially young people, get involved and engage in politics; they are then more likely to carry that through later on in their lives.

Photo of Brian H Donohoe Brian H Donohoe Labour, Central Ayrshire

Surely, in my constituency, as in others, the voting record of those between the ages of 18 and 25 is so low that something desperate needs to be done, does it not?

Photo of Dawn Butler Dawn Butler Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office) (Young Citizens and Youth Engagement)

I agree with hon. Friend that something desperate needs to be done. Surely, as part of that, hon. Members should make a cohesive effort to go out and engage with young people in all constituencies.