Local Government Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 10th July 2003.

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Photo of Lord Norton of Louth Lord Norton of Louth Conservative 6:45 pm, 10th July 2003

My Lords, I support the amendment. I have indicated my support on previous occasions for lowering the qualifying age for candidature for public office. It is right that lowering to 18 the age at which one qualifies for election would bring the age into line with the voting age, but there is no reason why the two should be the same. In many countries they are not. My view is that if one lowers one age, one can make a greater case for lowering the qualifying age for public office. The reason is that lowering the voting age to 18 empowers 18 year-olds. When one provides for 18 year-olds to stand for office, one empowers the electorate. The choice available to the electorate is widened.

The important point is not about candidates—they may be immature or they may not be—but about electors deciding whether they want candidates to speak for them. That is the fundamental point. My view is that the matter should be widened as much as possible and then it is up to the electors. If the electorate want someone who is not good, it is entirely up to them. I can see no argument against widening the choice. Although 18 year-olds would be allowed to stand, they would have to go through a certain process before becoming candidates as it is not an open matter like using a vote. I believe that there is a very powerful argument for lowering the qualifying age for candidature for public office. I believe that that case is stronger than the case that was made for lowering the voting age to 18, which took place in 1969. I believe that this change is long overdue and I add my support to the amendment.