Electoral Reform Bill

Many people have contacted me about Caroline Lucas’ Ten Minute Rule Bill on electoral reform. However, I am afraid that I disagree with both altering the voting system for general elections as well as lowering the voting age.

In regards to the voting system, we had a referendum in the last Parliament on this very issue with electors voting strongly against changing the system. With more than two-thirds voting against a switch to the ‘Alternative Vote’ (AV) and in favour of retaining First Past the Post, it would be undemocratic to ignore this verdict, or to make a case for more ambitious reform, such as Proportional Representation (PR), when the more modest AV proposal was defeated so resoundingly.

To address the age at which you are able to vote. In recent years polls on this subject have found that most adults oppose lowering it to 16.  It is notable that most democracies consider 18 the right age to enfranchise young people. It is widely recognised as the age at which one becomes an adult, gaining full citizenship rights, including the ability to vote. Indeed, in the last decade, the legal age for buying cigarettes and knives; for using sunbeds; and for leaving school, have all been increased by Parliament to 18.

Interestingly, a 2009 report by the Youth Citizenship Commission stated that the voting age is not the principal factor in encouraging young people's interest and involvement in politics and citizenship. I have been encouraged by how engaged school children in Taunton Deane are in politics and I will continue to assist with this wherever possible to ensure our young people take an interest in how our country is run and why.

Finally, the House of Commons voted resoundingly against the introduction of both measures discussed above and since this was a ‘Ten Minute Rule’ Bill it will make no further progress.

Thank you if you have taken the time to contact me on this matter.