I strongly support extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year olds. Scotland has given us a glimpse of what enfranchising 16 and 17-year-olds can mean. Over 80% registered to vote in the referendum in 2014 and they brought energy and vitality to the debate. And all of us who already have the right to vote and who value the opportunity it gives us to decide how we are governed should be hugely proud that young Scots voters showed that they had thought long and hard about the world they want to inherit.
By the end of 2017 the British people will make a hugely important decision about the future of Britain's relationship with the European Union which has given us jobs, growth, investment, security and influence in the world. Labour tried to amend the Referendum Bill in Parliament to give 16 and 17-year-olds a say in that decision, but sadly we were unsuccessful as it was opposed by the Government.
The Labour Party is committed to giving 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote in all UK elections. We will also improve the curriculum for citizenship education so that our young people have the knowledge they need to play a full part in British society. And to those who argue that young people aren't capable of making a decision of this importance, it is my view that the law allows 16 or 17-year-olds to give full consent to medical treatment, leave school, enter work or training, join a trade union, pay income tax and national insurance, obtain tax credits and welfare benefits, consent to sexual relationships, get married, change their name by deed poll, become a director of a company and join the armed forces. If they can do all these things, then we really ought to be able to trust them to participate in democratic decisions that will determine their future as much as it will ours.
Rt Hon Hilary Benn
MP for Leeds Central