Young People's Representation Act 2015

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Marty
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Young People's Representation Act 2015

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Re: Young People's Representation Act 2015

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Lord Knightly of Saxlingham Nethergate

My noble lords,

The bill we consider today would mean a considerable novelty for our democratic system, one which lowers voting age limits below the age of majority. I have two questions for the government, my noble lords, if you will allow me:

First, how does the government justify passing this bill when turnout among lower age groups is consistently lower than the general population's?

Second, the entire premise of extending the vote turns upon a solid preparation. Would it not be better to defer the entry into force of this bill until the necessary citizenship education has been provided?
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Tom Levy
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Re: Young People's Representation Act 2015

Post by Tom Levy »

My lords, my lords,

I thank my noble Lord Knightly of Saxlingham Nethergate for his giving me the opportunity to restate answers which, just a short time ago, were answered in another place.

The Government justifies passing this bill because it was a promise of the 2015 manifesto on which the Labour Party were returned to a majority in another place and, consequently, asked to form government by Her Majesty the Queen. Pursuant to the Parliament Act and the long-established Salisbury Convention, therefore, I do not believe that my Noble Lords need reminding, this bill, whether or not it passes through our august house, will not be opposed by my Noble Lords.

My Noble Lord Knightly of Saxlingham Nethergate's second question provides a somewhat more fruitful discussion despite, again, it having received an answer in another place not so long ago. It is the position of the Government that there is no other extension of voting franchise which is or has ever been contingent upon any civic or citizenship education and there is no reason, so far as the Government can see, to require it of 16 and 17 year olds who are now being enfranchised. If I may take some exception to My Noble Lord's comment that "the entire premise of extending the vote turns upon a solid preparation," the Government believes the exact opposite. This expansion of franchise is about fairness and increasing the democratic rights of the people of this country who, hitherto, have been prejudiced in exercising control over decisions which, often, have a greater and longer-lasting impact upon them than their compatriots who are presently enfranchised. To place a burden of education upon them which is not placed upon any other man or woman in this country who has the right to vote would, in the Government's opinion, be precisely counter-intuitive to the purpose of this Act.

The Act does, however, present significant increases to civic education in this country and, by so doing, will aim to raise the level of civic and citizenship knowledge and understanding among the majority of the population in this country. This is not intended to be an indication that additional education is required to vote; only as an indication that it is preferable that the public have some understanding of the, admittedly, convoluted and difficult conventions which are used to govern our country. Indeed, it is not outside of the ordinary for all but the most learned Noble Lords in this place, which is meant to represent the greatest of the country's collective minds, to be mistaken or unsure about some process, procedure or convention relating to government. How much more so for the average voter must it be confounding and, frankly, confusing. The Government believes that by increasing knowledge and awareness of our conventions and how government is conducted in this country, then voter happiness and trust, so consequently turnout, will rise among all of the effected demographics.
Rt. Hon. Tom Levy
Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury
MP for Manchester Gorton


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