Should 16-year-olds be given the vote in European Union referendum? Opinion is divided.
- Credit: PA
Sixteen-year-olds should have the vote - but not in the European Union referendum, Chloe Smith has said.
The former cabinet office minister, who as part of the Government in 2012 told MPs she was not convinced the age of voting should be altered, said she had now changed her mind.
But while claiming it was an important signal to send to young people that they were welcome in democracy, she did not back a Labour push to allow 16-year-olds to be given a vote in the European Union referendum.
Ms Smith, who is part of the Conservative Party board, voted against what she described as an 'ad hoc' change, claiming that something 'lasting' was needed.
Scottish National Party MPs, who now have 56 seats in the House of Commons, heralded the move to allow more teenagers to vote in the referendum last year.
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Mark Durkan, an SDLP MP, accused Ms Smith of 'giving mixed messages' by not supporting the amendment to the law for a European Union referendum before 2017 currently being passed in parliament, which would have allowed 16 and 17 years olds to have their say.
'I am arguing for a lasting change for young people, not for an ad hoc change, as represented by making it on a one-time referendum. As good as referendums are, they are by their nature one-timers,' said Ms Smith.
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One Labour MP Barry Sheerman warned against allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the EU referendum as he claimed the policy 'shrinks childhood' and would result in adulthood beginning at 16 rather than 18.
He told the Commons many of the protections afforded to children through to 18 'would be destroyed' by the change proposed by the SNP and Labour.
His views were dismissed by shadow Europe minister Pat McFadden who said: 'I find this very awkward as I nearly always agree with you on most things, but on this one isn't what's missing out of this is the responsibility we have as parliamentarians to care for young people who are very vulnerable.
MPs voted 310 to 265 against allowing 16 and 17 year olds a vote. North of the border Holyrood unanimously passed a bill for votes at 16 for the Scottish Parlimanet.
Should 16 year olds be allowed to vote? What do you think? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk