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Give the vote to 16-year-olds, says Ilford South MP Mike Gapes

12:28 31 January 2013

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mike gapes.92c05e60-b764-479e-919e-d740acebad8d

“Young people have issues that affect them,” says an Ilford MP who backed a motion by backbenchers who suggested lowering the voting age to 16.

The motion was called by a Liberal Democrat MP in the House of Commons who suggested the voting age should be lowered by two years for elections and referenda.

Mike Gapes, Labour MP for Ilford South, said: “I voted for it and it was carried. Most of the Conservatives who did vote, voted against it [but] the government would need to bring forward legislation.

“People can get married at 16, they can get a provisional driving licence, they can join the armed forces. Young people have issues that affect them.

“Thousands of young people in Redbridge voted for representatives in the Youth Parliament and many young people are interested in the world and they have debates.”

The motion was passed last Thursday by 119 votes to 46, but the vote is not binding on the government.

Conservative MP for Ilford North, Lee Scott, who did not vote, added: “I don’t have a problem with it either way. I’m very laid back on it.”

On whether the backbench motion could be amended to a relevant bill in the future, he added: “I don’t know if it would happen.”

If it did, he said that he would “look carefully at it, and consult on it”.

MPs also discussed how important it is to encourage more young people to vote, with only 56 per cent of 19 to 24-year-olds listed on the electoral register.

Recorder/Redbridge Rotary Club Young Citizen monthly winner, Omar Carney, 17, of Arandora Crescent, Chadwell Heath, said: “I think 16 and 17-year-olds should be able to vote and I would have loved to have had an opportunity to be able to have a say on subjects such as university fees, GSCEs and school meals.

“I think it is unfair that we don’t get to vote when issues affect us too.”

The student, who attends Chadwell Heath Academy, Christie Gardens, Chadwell Heath, added: “I think there is a lack of young voters because they feel they would not be listened to.”

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