The Votes at 16 All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has released
a campaign report to mark one year since the group was established at the
APPG’s AGM tonight, Tuesday 2nd April.
The report draws together evidence gathered by the all-party group throughout its first year, with contributions from parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, academics, youth organisations, campaigners and think tanks.
Speakers at the launch event, responding to the report, will include a Member of the UK Youth Parliament and Cat Smith MP, Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs.
Danielle Rowley MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Votes at 16 said: “This report makes the clear and compelling case that it is time for votes at 16. We live in turbulent political times and the diverse insights of young people will be as important as ever in helping to chart a way forward. The mobilisation of young people on issues from Brexit to Climate Change shows just how much we are losing out by not recognising their views at the ballot box.
“The Government must listen to the growing calls from voices in all political parties, including their own, that the time to act is now.”
Sir Peter Bottomley MP, Treasurer of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Votes at 16 said: “If we are in favour of the average new voter taking part in a national election aged 18, to achieve this, voting eligibility needs to be 16.”
“My appeal to Conservatives, the Government and supporters of other parties who oppose this is not to approach this issue with calculations of party advantage.”
“The United Kingdom’s democratic story is more important than party advantage.”
Commenting on the report, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair of the British Youth Council, the secretariat for the all-party group said: “The argument for lowering the voting age to 16 continues to get greater! The Government continue to ignore the request for votes at 16 but we know there are no credible arguments against lowering the age when we allow 16 and 17 year old the chance to vote in some elections already.”
Support for a lower voting age has increased over the last 20 years with politicians from across the political spectrum announcing their support for a lower voting age. 16 and 17 year olds are allowed to vote in the Scottish Parliamentary elections and Scottish Local Council elections and are due to get a vote in the Welsh local elections, making it harder to deny an extension to the franchise in all elections. Votes at 16 has been a long-standing campaign for Members of Youth Parliament with the issue topping the youth agenda on five occasions since 2011 in the Make Your Mark ballot.
The British Youth Council and Votes at 16 Coalition have joined forces with the FairVote Campaign to support the renewed attempt to introduce a lowering vote age. The latest attempt to introduce voting for 16 and 17 year olds has been spearheaded by Peter Kyle MP who is championing the Representation of the People Bill.
The bill, which has been sponsored by Nicky Morgan MP, Caroline Lucus MP and Norman Lamb MP, is expected to have its second reading debate on Friday 11th May 2018. For the first time since 2010, it is thought the Government may no longer have a majority on the issue with Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum speaking out in support of a lower voting age.
Last week the British Youth Council and Votes at Coalition questioned why thousands of 16 and 17 year olds were denied a vote in the elections that took place in England. In Scotland, 16 and 17 year olds have been allowed to vote in the Scottish Parliamentary elections and Scottish Local Council elections since May 2016. The Welsh Government have also announced their intention to introduce a lower voting age in Welsh local election.
Anna Rose Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “Young people have been speaking out in favour of a lower voting age for 19 years. There are no credible arguments against lowering the age now that we allow 16 and 17 year olds the chance to vote in some elections.
“I hope Members of Parliament will see that 16 and 17 year olds can no longer be denied a vote.”
The British Youth Council and Votes at 16 Coalition are calling on the UK Government to make immediate changes to the legislation preventing 16 and 17 year olds the opportunity to vote in elections. The call comes ahead of the local elections which are taking place in England on Thursday 3rd May 2018.
Thousands of 16 and 17 year olds are being denied a vote in the elections taking place in England. Several elections are being held in England, with elections to all 32 London boroughs, 34 metropolitan boroughs, 68 district and borough councils and 17 unitary authorities. Young people will also miss out on the mayoral elections taking place Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Watford and the combined authority mayoral elections in the Sheffield City Region.
Young people aged 16 and 17 will be denied a vote despite the fact young people in Scotland have been able to take part in Scottish Parliamentary elections and Scottish Local Council elections since May 2016.
Anna Rose Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “It seems unjust to prevent 16 and 17 year olds the chance to vote in the local elections when their peers in Scotland have had the chance to take part in the Scottish Parliamentary elections and Scottish Local Council elections since May 2016.
“This year we’ve been marking 100 years since the first women were allowed to vote. We call on the Government to lead the way on democratic engagement by lowering the voting age and allowing the first 16 year olds the chance to vote. It is time for the Government to listen to the voices of young people.”
The British Youth Council have been campaigning for a lower voting age for the last 19 years. Support within Parliament has increased in recent years, with Members of Parliament and Peers from across the political spectrum indicating their support both in public and private.
Recent analysis by political commentators suggests the Government may no longer have a majority within the House of Commons. Members of Parliament are due to debate the issue on Friday 11th May 2018 on the green benches of the Commons.
Following recent publicity on the votes at 16 issue MPs have established an All-Party Parliamentary Group to help develop the case for lowering the voting age. The APPG comprises of MPs from across the political spectrum, who will meet to hear evidence from young people, youth organisations and other experts, and use this knowledge to approach the Government for a change in the voting age.
It doesn’t’ seem too long ago that we had the commons debate in Parliament on votes at 16. Unfortunately, Jim McMahon’s Private Member’s Bill wasn’t moved to a vote.
But despite our frustrations on the day, it is clear that a fire has been well and truly lit under the votes at 16 issue. It can’t and won’t be ignored.
The fight is far from won though. There remain many critics of young people’s capacity and aptitude to vote.
So there is more work to be done by MPs and the votes at 16 coalition, and the APPG give us an opportunity to build on the campaign.
The APPG is chaired by Danielle Rowley, who is Labour’s youngest MP and was herself involved in the Youth Parliament. She, therefore, has a real passion for votes at 16 and is honoured to chair the APPG.
Danielle Rowley MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Votes at 16, said: “16 and 17 year olds contribute so much to our society, and are very often politically informed and engaged. So much of their lives are affected by Parliament yet they can’t vote for who represents them. This APPG will bring together supportive voices from across the House to make the compelling case for votes at 16”.
The British Youth Council and Votes at 16 Coalition welcome growing support from within the Conservative Party for the enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year olds. With former front bench Minsters Nicky Morgan MP and Justine Greening MP joining votes at 16 supporter, Sir Peter Bottomley MP, it is clear the tide is turning.
Support for a lower voting age has increased over the last 19 years with politicians from across the political spectrum announcing their support for a lower voting age. 16 and 17 year olds are allowed to vote in the Scottish Parliamentary elections and Scottish Local Council elections and are due to get a vote in the Welsh local elections, making it harder to deny an extension to the franchise in all elections. Yesterday, Rochdale Council joined the growing number of local authorities also declaring their support.
Anna Rose Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “Young people have been calling for a lowering voting age for a long time and it’s about time they were heard. Cross-party support has been growing and is great to see Conservative politicians vocalising their support. The tide is turning.
“With votes at 16 in Scotland, and Wales following close behind, it seems ludicrous for 16 and 17 year olds to be denied a vote in other elections. We must have parity across the UK.”
UK Youth Parliament recently renewed their efforts to drum up support for votes at 16 across the country. Votes at 16 has been a long-standing campaign for Members of Youth Parliament with the issue topping the youth agenda on four occasions since 2011 in the Make Your Mark ballot.
Alaa Fawaz, aged 16, Member of Youth Parliament for Slough who has recently spoken to the Prime Minister about votes at 16 said: “I think it is sad that the Government is resisting a lower voting age. I hope we are able to change the minds of those in Government so 16 and 17 year olds can have their say in a meaningful way.
“Young people are more engaged than ever before and it’s imperative that 16 and 17 year olds are entrusted with the vote now!”
New figures suggest the Government may not have a majority on the issue in the Commons, reaping new hope for Peter Kyle MP’s Private Members Bill which is due to be debated in the chamber in May.
The British Youth Council and Votes at 16 Coalition are supporting a renewed attempt to lower the voting age across the UK. On Friday 3 November, Parliament will debate a Private Members’ Bill which is set to enable all 16 and 17 year olds a chance to vote in all UK elections and referenda. The bill is sponsored by Jim McMahon MP, who has been a passionate supporter of enfranchising 16 and 17 year olds after listening to young people from Oldham Youth Council.
The announcement of the Private Member’s Bill has galvanised young people into action, seeing young people lobbying their MP to attend the debate. Many MPs have announced their support for the bill, including Diane Abbot MP, Caroline Lucas MP, and Sir Peter Bottomley MP.
Jim McMahon MP, Member of Parliament for Oldham West and Royton, who sponsored the Private Members Bill said: “It was only right that I let young people decide the topic of my Private Members Bill. For too long their voices have been left behind, and so I tasked Oldham Youth Council with debating and then choosing this topic – and I’m glad they chose ‘votes at 16’.
“I welcome the debate on lowering the voting age. A debate about, once again, spreading the freedoms and responsibilities of our society to many more people”.
Anna Rose Barker, Chair, British Youth Council said: “It’s extraordinary that we’re still having to make the case for lowering the voting age to 16. We cant continue to deny 1.5 million young people their chance to influence democracy.
“I’m really hoping MPs from across the House of Commons support this Bill because it’s about time we enfranchised 16 and 17 year olds in all elections and referenda”
The campaign for lowering the voting age began 18 years ago, in this time a number of MPs and Peers have used their influence and processes available to them to push the campaign forward. Despite the high turnout of 16 and 17 year olds in the Scottish Independence Referendum, 1.5 million young people were denied a vote in the EU Referendum, one of Britain’s largest constitutional decisions in recent history and in the General Election which took place earlier this year.