Thank you for contacting me about the Electoral Reform Bill.
I am afraid that I disagree with both altering the voting system for general elections and lowering the voting age.
Regarding the voting system, I like the simplicity of first past the post which remains the most widely used electoral system in the world. It is deeply rooted in the constituency system and allows Governments, I believe, to be held to account far more effectively than in a PR system in which the real commitments are not made between the governing party and the electorate but between political parties after the votes are counted.
We had a referendum on electoral reform in the last Parliament. Electors voted strongly against changing the system, with more than two-thirds voting against switching to the 'Alternative Vote' (AV) system and in favour of retaining First Past the Post. I appreciate that AV and PR are not synonymous but this didn’t strike me as suggesting the public were in a mood to change our system.
Regarding the voting age, polls show that most adults oppose lowering it to 16. It is notable that most democracies consider 18 the right age for the franchise. It is widely recognised as the age at which one becomes an adult, and full citizenship rights, including voting, should be gained at adulthood. Indeed, in the last decade, the legal age for buying cigarettes and knives; for using sunbeds; and for leaving school, have all been increased by Parliament to 18.
I am all for young people taking part in politics and encourage school students to do so but this is not just a matter of the voting age. Interestingly, a 2009 report by the Youth Citizenship Commission stated that the voting age is not the principal factor in encouraging young people's interest and involvement in politics and citizenship.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.