Speech on Votes at 16

 

What we’re debating today is whether young adults have the same rights as every other adult in this country.

Over 1.5 million 16 and 17 year-olds in the UK, 2.4% of the population – are denied the vote.

Denied access into political society.

Denied equal trust and respect which is granted to all other citizens

Denied a voice.

Give them the vote and they will breathe fresh life into what looks increasingly like a club for the elite.

In fact my brilliant young constituent Emily Warrillow has been so inspired by this opportunity to vote in 2020 that she has raised a petition asking for political education to be put on the national curriculum that’s had almost 700 signatures.

As she says – we are told how important it is to vote and to be politically aware but we don’t have the information to make an intelligent choice.

Emily’s view – and mine – is that while we want young people to have the vote, we also believe young people should be taught the importance of voting and the history behind it.

At 16 a person can take big decisions – can get married, give consent, become a director of a company, serve our nation in the armed forces, leave school, get a job, pay income tax and national insurance.

If we expect 16 year-olds to pay into our nation’s coffers, and I’m sure the Treasury happily spends that money, how can we refuse them a say over how their money is spent?

The minimum age is 16 in Austria, Brazil, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey.

People aged 16–18 can vote in Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro if employed.

In Scotland, 16- and 17-year-olds were allowed to vote in the independence referendum and are allowed to vote in local elections and elections to the Scottish Parliament.

Labour wants this right to be universal.

For most of their lives, this generation of young people have grown up knowing only austerity.

Things being taken away.

This is our chance to GIVE them something.

Giving young people the chance to vote empowers and engages.

Knowing you can vote could encourage you to study Politics A Level, encouraging more people from different backgrounds to get into politics.

Young people also have passion.

Passion about fairness.

Passion about being connected.

Passion about those around the world with less than them.

Issues and global campaigns that might’ve passed by us older voters.

As we want this place to be fit for the 21st century, I think we should ensure our political engagement also moves with the times.

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