Lewisham MP Vicky Foxcroft has branded her fellow MPs “completely out of touch with young people” following their decision not to lower the voting age to 16 for the upcoming EU referendum.
An impassioned plea by Foxcroft, the MP for Lewisham Deptford, fell on deaf ears in the House of Commons last night as her call to lower the voting age was blocked.
MPs rejected proposed changes to the European Union Referendum Bill to reduce the voting age to 16 by a vote of 303 to 253.
During the debate in the House of Commons, Foxcroft told MPs it was “fundamentally wrong” to tax 16 and 17 year-olds without giving them political representation in return and invoked the American Revolution.
She said: “How long will it be before young people start to rise up? The last thing we need is more young people becoming militants. Many of my colleagues have called for more momentum on this issue. These are people, they have voices, they have opinions and they want to be heard.”
Disappointed that the Govt just blocked votes for 16 & 17 yr olds in the EU referendum, they’re completely out of touch with young people
— vickyfoxcroft (@vickyfoxcroft) December 8, 2015
Previously the House of Lords amended the EU Referendum Bill in order to allow the voting age to be lowered to 16.
In yesterday’s vote, the House of Commons rejected the amendment by claiming “financial privilege”, which allows them to veto proposals that have significant cost implications. The government has estimated that changing the voting age to 16 could cost taxpayers £6 million.
Rushanara Ali, the Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow supported lowering the voting age, as did Hackney North and Stoke Newington’s Diane Abbott, Hackney South and Shoreditch’s Meg Hillier, Croydon North’s Steve Reed and Lewisham West’s Jim Dowd.
MP for Lewisham East Heidi Alexander and Tower Hamlets’ MP for Poplar and Limehouse Jim Fitzpatrick chose not to vote.
In contrast, Croydon’s Conservative MPs Chris Philp, for Croydon North, and Gavin Barwell, for Croydon Central, both voted against the amendment.
Gavin Barwell MP for Croydon Central said: “It would clearly be wrong to change the voting age for a specific election or referendum.”
During the debate, Conservative MPs claimed 16 year-olds were not mature enough and did not have the life experience to vote in elections.
— UK Youth Parliament (@UKYP) December 8, 2015
In June this year, Scotland lowered the voting age in general elections to 16 following a successful pilot during the Scottish referendum to leave the UK in September 2014.
The Electoral Reform Society campaigned for England to follow suit following the success of the move in north of the border.
Will Brett, a spokesperson for the Electoral Reform Society said:
“The Scottish independence referendum showed once and for all that young people are more than capable of informing themselves about the issues and taking important political decisions.
“Sadly, their counterparts elsewhere in the UK are being denied that right in the forthcoming EU referendum. The impact of the EU referendum will be felt for decades to come, but young people are being excluded from the debate.”
— Electoral Reform Soc (@electoralreform) December 8, 2015
The SNP, Labour, Greens, and Liberal Democrats all support extending the general voting age to 16 years old, while Conservatives oppose the move.
The EU referendum is set to take place before the end of 2017.
By Isabel Togoh and Douglas Pyper
Follow Isabel Togoh on Twitter: @bissieness
Follow Douglas Pyper on Twitter: @douglaspyper