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Olympic Games

10. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): What account will be taken of companies' international performance on workers' rights in the process of tendering and awarding of contracts for the 2012 Olympics. [29644]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): Fair employment is included in the draft procurement principles for the Olympic Delivery Authority that were agreed and made available to the public in September this year. The London Development Agency is working to develop a procurement strategy for the ODA which will set out how those 10 principles will be put into practice in the context of European procurement regulations. The strategy will need to be approved both by Government and the Mayor of London in due course.

Kelvin Hopkins: I thank my right hon. Friend for her answer. She will be aware that a number of global corporations adopt unacceptable labour practices elsewhere in the world. The games provide a good opportunity to exercise leverage over those companies. We are going to enjoy a wonderful games, but does she agree that it should not be at the expense of exploited workers elsewhere in the world?

Tessa Jowell: I am sure that the whole House accepts my hon. Friend's sentiments. I remind him that the Government subscribe to the International Labour Organisation regulations as far as they refer to child labour. The Olympic games will have a tangible legacy with the new stadiums and other projects, but we hope that there will be another kind of legacy: good employment practice and good skills in one of the most deprived parts of the country.


The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—

Cathedral Property

20. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): If he will make a statement on the availability for sale of cathedral property to existing tenants over the next five years. [29654]

Mr. David Lammy (Tottenham) : With permission, I shall answer Church Commissioners' questions on behalf of the Second Church Estates Commissioner, my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Sir Stuart Bell).
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The Church Commissioners have no statutory responsibility for the day-to-day management of cathedral property and do not therefore possess the information requested by the hon. Gentleman.

Michael Fabricant: This will be an easier one. The hon. Gentleman will know that Lichfield cathedral was completed in 1180 and is very much a part of our national heritage, as are other cathedrals, yet they receive no money from Government funding. They do receive money from tenants in cathedral closes. Can he ensure, by discussing the matter with Ministers at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, that cathedrals will not have their property sold off, thus reducing the amount of money received?

Mr. Lammy: I know that the hon. Gentleman has campaigned on behalf of cathedrals for some time. I think that he will know that my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough has said that the Charities Bill may be a vehicle through which to look at that matter. I hope that he will join my hon. Friend in raising that issue as the Bill makes its passage through another place.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): Would the hon. Gentleman care to tell the House why it should be that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) said, English cathedrals receive not a single penny from the state, yet all five Scottish cathedrals are entirely supported by the state?

Mr. Lammy: Again, from discussions with the Church Commissioners, the hon. Gentleman will know that the money has increased because of what we have been able to do around reclaiming on VAT. He will also be pleased at the £23 million contribution and above that the state is making to our cathedrals.


The hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, was asked—

Voting Age

21. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): What research the commission has carried out on the likely impact of extending the franchise to 16-year-olds; and if he will make a statement. [29655]

24. Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): What recent representations the Electoral Commission has received on lowering the voting age. [29660]

Peter Viggers (Gosport) : The Electoral Commission undertook a review of the voting age in 2003–04. As part of the review, it conducted an extensive public consultation exercise and received a wide range of representations. Those were summarised in the commission's report, published in April 2004. The review also drew on academic research on the likely impact of extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds as well as evidence from a review of existing research and
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literature and a public opinion survey. The commission informs me that it continues to receive representations on the subject from time to time.

Andrew Mackinlay: Would the hon. Gentleman use his good offices to support me and others who want to press the Government to bring the matter before the House of Commons on a free vote? I recall lobbying the then Home Secretary James Callaghan in the late 1960s to lower the voting age to 18, and he decided then that it was a matter for the House of Commons as a whole and for individual Members to decide. Does the hon. Gentleman not think that, now the Electoral Commission has examined it, this matter should come before the House, so that each and every one of us can decide whether to vote for or against it? I will vote for it.

Peter Viggers: The Commission informs me that it is not convinced that a persuasive case for change has been made. Its view is that the minimum voting age should, for the time being, remain at 18. However, the Commission welcomes the prospect of parliamentary debate on the issue and it is open to the hon. Gentleman, if he wishes, to seek to move an amendment to the Electoral Administration Bill currently before the House.

Bob Spink: Did my hon. Friend see the Electoral Reform Society briefing of 25 October, which made reasoned argument to engage young people, the vast majority of whom are decent citizens, by lowering the voting age to 16? Will he listen to the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay), and will he seek to promote a free vote on this matter when the Electoral Administration Bill comes before the House?

Peter Viggers: The Commission has said that developments in citizenship education and new research information may lead to differing conclusions over time, and the Commission committed itself in 2004 to undertake a further review of the issue within five to seven years. It has also encouraged the Government to consider in the meanwhile initiating a wider review of the age of majority beyond simple electoral matters, largely because of substantial variations in present laws.

Ms Diana R. Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, North) (Lab): Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in municipal elections in Austria and Germany, 16 and 17-year-olds can actually vote? In Germany, turnout is higher among that group than it is among 18 to 35-year-olds; and in Austria, turnout of 16 and 17-year-olds is at 90 per cent. Does not that show that 16 and 17-year-olds will, when given the opportunity, actually vote; and is it not time that they were the given that opportunity in the United Kingdom?

Peter Viggers: I am aware of the hon. Lady's early-day motion on this subject, which has been signed by a significant number of hon. Members. There are very few countries with a voting age lower than 18. In Europe, four regions of Austria reduced the minimum voting for some elections from 18 to 16, but the Commission is unaware of any research into the impact of that change.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): Does my hon. Friend not agree that, for once, the
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Commission has come up with a sensible response to what is, by any account, an utterly absurd proposition? The idea that 16-year-olds should be able to decide who governs the country is so patently absurd that I hope that my hon. Friend will not urge anyone to have a debate on that subject in this place in the foreseeable future.

Peter Viggers: I am sure that the Electoral Commission will be profoundly reassured to hear my right hon. Friend's comments.

John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): May I put it to my hon. Friend that he ought very clearly to hear the contrary point of view? Given that 16-year-olds can smoke, drink and join the Army, why should they not have the opportunity to participate in our parliamentary democracy? May I also say to my hon. Friend that he should not be over-influenced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) who, despite his very considerable merits, makes Victor Meldrew look like a true moderniser?

Peter Viggers: Support for lowering the voting age is, of course, more strongly held among younger than older people, but it is a fact that the majority of those over the age of 18 do not believe that a persuasive case has been made for reducing the voting age. Indeed, there is not much indication of very widespread views among 15 to 19-year-olds either. However, the Electoral Commission takes the view that it would be appropriate for it to review the matter in some six or seven years, as I said.

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