A NEW AGE FOR DEMOCRACY: Youth Select Committee Votes at 16 Report Launch – 5th Nov, Parliament 31st October 2014

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There might be fireworks, but no plotters in Parliament. This time the activists have adopted the tactics of the House of Commons and are using elected representatives,  research  and witnesses to demonstrate that they are not only capable of voting, but also of holding an intelligent enquiry to make a compelling case for it.

On Wednesday 5 November, the Youth Select Committee will launch its report on ‘Lowering the Voting Age to 16’. The report considers both written and oral evidence and concludes that the right to vote should be extended to those aged 16 and 17.¬† The enquiry was triggered after the issue topped a British Youth Council poll of 478,000 young people in the UK.

The Committee found that whilst maturity is difficult to assess objectively, the evidence they received suggested that people aged 16 and 17 were mature enough to vote. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that lowering the voting age may improve political engagement amongst young people, as well as increasing their influence over government policy.

The report suggests that lowering the voting age presents a unique opportunity to connect young people with the democratic process, with the possibility of creating a permanent change to the UK’s political culture.

Lowering the voting age should be accompanied by a step change in political education, the report also recommends, calling for increased funding for training and resources for citizenship teachers, as well as the introduction of a politics GCSE.

The Report will be launched at an event in Portcullis House, chaired by Lord Tyler, and attended by Youth Select Committee members and witnesses. There will be an opportunity for questions.

Michael Hope, 17, chair of the Youth Select Committee, said “This report presents clear evidence that lowering the voting age would be beneficial in many ways. Not only would it improve political engagement amongst younger people, but could reinvigorate a national apathy towards politics. Our recommendations are clear, however: lowering the voting age brings with it a responsibility to educate and motivate young people about the importance of participating in our democracy. I look forward to reading the Government’s response to this report”.

The Youth Select Committee (YSC) is a British Youth Council initiative, supported by the House of Commons. The Youth Select Committee has eleven committee members aged 14 – 18 and includes three Members of the Youth Parliament (MYPs), one former MYP, three youth councillors, a representative from the Scout Association and one elected representative from each of the devolved nations.

‘Lowering the voting age to 16’ was chosen as the priority campaign of the UK Youth Parliament at its annual House of Commons debate in November 2013, and the topic will be debated again in this year’s debate on 14 November.