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Clause 1

Part of Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 31st January 2008.

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Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners) 2:00 pm, 31st January 2008

I note that the hon. Gentleman did not answer the question whether he advocated lowering the drinking age. He says that it should be properly considered, which suggests that he may have some sympathy with the idea. Perhaps a motion to the Liberal Democrat conference will help to guide him; his party is well guided by such things.

In respect of the hon. Gentleman’s question on the voting age, it is a debate to be had. Naturally, the Government look forward to that debate. We look to the Leader of the House for wisdom on such matters, but should we decide to lower the voting age to 16, it still will not contradict the notion that we are setting out clearly in the Bill that the period between turning 16 and turning 18 is period of transition from childhood to adulthood. That is why the Bill includes a duty on young people to participate in education. Up to the compulsory school leaving age of 16, the duty rests solely with parents. Some duties are attached to parents under the Bill, implying that they too have a role.

The driving age is 17, although some argue that it should be 18, and that the legal age for buying cigarettes should be 18, as it is for alcohol, but many other things happen at 16. The law generally acknowledges that it is a period of transition. It is therefore not at all difficult to suggest that compulsion should apply in respect of some form of education or training up to the age of 18.