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Mr. Salmond: I agree with the Minister, but one reason why we lost so many people, particularly young people, from the register stems from the fact that in most Scottish constituencies there is no longer a personal canvass. If the franchise were lowered to 16, when people are mainly still at school and can be readily identified, it would assist in the process of getting people registered.

Mrs. McGuire: I am not sure that that would solve the long-term problem, because people move around and there are all sorts of reasons why people come off the register. There is a danger of those who support the reduction of the voting age to 16 undermining their own case by using such arguments: it must be right because it is right, not because it will increase turnout or make registration easier. Electoral returning officers can canvass personally, and many do. Certainly the Scotland Office, working with the Electoral Commission and electoral registration officers, is examining some of the concerns expressed in the House and elsewhere about the perception of under-registration.

Angus Robertson: Briefly, for the record, we now know that the Prime Minister is agnostic on the issue of lowering the voting age; that the Minister for Schools Standards is in favour; and that the Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Leslie), who opened the debate for the Government, has not yet made up his mind. May I therefore ask the Minister about her position? Is she in favour of lowering the voting age to 16—yes or no?

Mrs. McGuire: The Labour party has specifically highlighted the reduction of the voting age in the big

9 Mar 2004 : Column 1487

conversation: we are a listening party on the issue. My one criticism of today's debate is that it is unfortunate that our discussions are so close to the Electoral Commission's report on its findings and analysis. I look forward to having a full and frank debate on the reduction of the voting age after the Electoral Commission has reported.

I should like to deal with a few of the issues raised in the debate. The hon. Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green), among others, mentioned taxation. I am certainly pleased that, in this country, individuals' right to vote is not determined by whether they are married, sleeping with someone, receiving benefits or paying taxation. I believe that it is an intrinsic right, albeit at a threshold in respect of age, that is unrelated to any other aspect of being citizens of this country. We confuse the issues when we start to make those linkages. It is not about the Boston tea party or whether young people in Scotland—but not in England—can get married at 16 without parental consent. It is all about whether the case for voting at a certain age is worthy in its own right. I hope that we will properly debate that when—

Adam Price rose—

Mrs. McGuire: I have only a few minutes left, so it must be a very short intervention, which might be difficult for a Welshman—[Interruption.]

Adam Price: When the Minister says that we should have a full debate following the publication of the Electoral Commission report, is she committing the Government to a debate on the Floor of the House?

Mrs. McGuire: The hon. Gentleman, charming though he is—I think that all Welshmen are charming—will not seduce me into predetermining what Government business will be dealt with on the Floor of the House. It was a nice try, nevertheless.

My hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David) brought the wealth of his own experience in youth work to our debate. Those who have worked with young people—I include myself in that category—know that many issues affect their lives and that they are interested not so much in whether they should be allowed to vote at 16 or 17, but in a whole plethora of issues, which we, as the Government, have addressed.

The hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) made a thoughtful contribution, although the terrible image of him at the age of six sitting by his fireside and reading Hansard does not sit well with his current politics. Generally, though, the House has agreed that we must focus on issues that are important to young people. We must go beyond the mechanics of democracy and deal with the outcomes of the democratic process.

I want to go on record as saying that the Government have dealt with some of the great issues affecting young people. In my experience, one of the most debilitating problems faced by young people was long-term youth unemployment. The new deal and other aspects of the Government's employment policy have almost obliterated youth unemployment, and we have established modern apprenticeships in Scotland. We need to talk about young people's issues, and not just mouth the platitudes for which so many of them criticise us.

9 Mar 2004 : Column 1488

I want to comment on some of the initiatives that have been taken in Scotland, some of which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs mentioned when he opened the debate. Currently, the Local Governance (Scotland) Bill is going through the Scottish Parliament. It will reduce the required age for local government candidates in Scotland. I think that that is a step forward.

Pete Wishart (North Tayside) (SNP) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 50, Noes 346.

Division No. 81
[7:36 pm


Allan, Richard
Baker, Norman
Barrett, John
Beggs, Roy (E Antrim)
Beith, rh A. J.
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Bruce, Malcolm
Burstow, Paul
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies (NE Fife)
Carmichael, Alistair
Cotter, Brian
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Donaldson, Jeffrey M.
Doughty, Sue
Ewing, Annabelle
Foster, Don (Bath)
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Gidley, Sandra
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Harvey, Nick
Holmes, Paul
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury & Atcham)
Öpik, Lembit
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Pugh, Dr. John
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Rendel, David
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Salmond, Alex
Sanders, Adrian
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Weir, Michael
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Younger-Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Simon Thomas and
Pete Wishart


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Irene (Paisley N)
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Amess, David
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Barnes, Harry
Barron, rh Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Bell, Sir Stuart
Bellingham, Henry
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, rh Paul
Boswell, Tim
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Burns, Simon
Burt, Alistair
Byers, rh Stephen
Caborn, rh Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chope, Christopher
Clapham, Michael
Clappison, James
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Collins, Tim
Colman, Tony
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davidson, Ian
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Duncan, Peter (Galloway)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Fabricant, Michael
Farrelly, Paul
Fisher, Mark
Flight, Howard
Flint, Caroline
Flook, Adrian
Follett, Barbara
Forth, rh Eric
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Gummer, rh John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Hawkins, Nick
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hendry, Charles
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hinchliffe, David
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale)
Hoon, rh Geoffrey
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Hutton, rh John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jack, rh Michael
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkin, Bernard
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Kemp, Fraser
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lammy, David
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Letwin, rh Oliver
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lidington, David
Lilley, rh Peter
Linton, Martin
Loughton, Tim
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCafferty, Chris
McCartney, rh Ian
MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
Maclean, rh David
McLoughlin, Patrick
McNamara, Kevin
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWilliam, John
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Olner, Bill
Organ, Diana
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prescott, rh John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purnell, James
Quinn, Lawrie
Randall, John
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Raynsford, rh Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Rooney, Terry
Rosindell, Andrew
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Ruffley, David
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Short, rh Clare
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steen, Anthony
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Swayne, Desmond
Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
Syms, Robert
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Taylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Tyrie, Andrew
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Watkinson, Angela
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Whittingdale, John
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:

Charlotte Atkins and
Mr. Jim Murphy

Question accordingly negatived.

9 Mar 2004 : Column 1491

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments):—

The House divided: Ayes 310, Noes 10.

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