Votes at 16 bid blocked by Conservatives filibusters
Opposition MPs were left furious today after a bid to lower the voting age to 16 for UK elections was 'talked out' by Conservative MPs.
A bill to extend the franchise in elections was ineligible for a vote because it had not been debated for long enough, Commons deputy speaker Eleanor Laing ruled.
Debate on the bill ran out of time after Conservative MPs spent hours talking out a previous bill on the use of force in mental health units. As a result, the Representation of the People (Young People's Enfranchisement) Bill, proposed by the Labour MP Jim McMahon, was debated for a little less than an hour and a half.
“I think the Government benches ought to be very concerned," McMahon concluded.
“Because 16 and 17-year-olds today might be denied the right to vote but in two years’ time, they will remember who blocked them from having that democratic right only two years earlier.”
Liberal Democrat Scotland spokesperson Christine Jardine MP said: “The spirited contributions which we saw from 16 and 17 year olds in the Scottish Referendum were amongst the most informed, enthusiastic and incisive.
“Votes at 16 brought so many young people into politics, which is exactly what we should be seeking to do.”
Jardine and the SNP's Johanna Cherry were backed up by Scottish Conservative MP Luke Graham, who intervened on his Tory colleage James Clerely to say: "In Scotland we extended the franchise to 16 and 17 year-olds which as a pragmatic Conservative we saw as a valuable test, and wouldn't you agree they passed that test with flying colours? We should be a united kingdom, and extend those rights across the whole country."
But Tory Bernard Jenkin – who chairs the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee said it would be a “great mistake” to allow 16-year-olds to vote.
“Most 16 and 17-year-olds do not have the level of political knowledge and maturity required to vote,” he said to uproar from the opposition benches.
The debate on lowering the voting age is set to return to the House on 1 December, Ms Laing ruled, which means it will be unlikely to reach a vote.