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Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): It is worrying that the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Stephen Williams) drew a parallel between smoking and voting. If the Labour party gets its hands on it, it will be banning voting just as it wants to ban smoking.

The Electoral Commission is investigating national voting at 16 at great length. Its report, which was published in April this year, concluded that the minimum age for all levels of voting in UK public elections should remain at 18, although it said that the minimum age for candidacy should be reduced to 18. I welcome the latter move, and that has been put forward by the Government in the Electoral Administration Bill. My party and I support that. Having candidates aged 18 would be valuable.

In its report on reducing the voting age, the commission, which conducted wide-ranging public consultation, concluded:

It also said that

In my constituency, Speech House—the home of debate—was host to much discussion on this subject when Forest sixth-formers met during local democracy week in the Verderers' court. The Royal Forest of Dean college, Wyedean school and Newent community schools sent students to debate whether the minimum age of voting should be lowered to 16. Even among an audience made up entirely of 16 to 18-year-olds, there was almost a 50:50 split. Even among the target age group there is not a clear wish for change.

The hon. Member for Bristol, West said that there are a number of things that young people are permitted to do at 16, but he did not give the full picture. It is true that someone can join the Army at 16, but that person cannot serve on the front line until 18. It is true that we
29 Nov 2005 : Column 141
can get married at 16, but until 18 people have to have their parents' permission. We make distinctions in this country and there are certain things that can be done only when someone achieves the age of majority, when he or she is deemed to be an adult. A line must be drawn somewhere. If we move to 16, no doubt there will be arguments to move the age even further. Without a clear line there is no obvious end.

The Electoral Commission conducted a wide-ranging survey that involved ICM. In an unprompted survey, 64 per cent. of the public said that 18 was the correct age. Only 18 per cent. thought that 16 years was preferable. When given a choice between 18 and 16, 78 per cent. said that 18 was the correct age. Interestingly, those below the age of 18 wanted the voting age to be lowered, but once they had reached the age of 18, they expressed overwhelming support for the 18 limit.

The Electoral Commission's survey, conducted by ICM, came up with some solid conclusions. It stated:

the hon. Member for Bristol, West has outlined some that he found convincing—

It went on to say:

We have to draw the line somewhere, and traditionally we have set 18 as the age at which one becomes an adult. That is a sensible settlement. It is sensible to reduce the age of candidacy to parallel the voting age, but this measure does not deserve the support of the House.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 23 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business):—

The House divided: Ayes 128, Noes 136.

Division No. 109
[3.56 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Alexander, Danny
Anderson, Janet
Austin, John
Baker, Norman
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barrett, John
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Bercow, John
Bottomley, Peter
Brake, Tom
Brooke, Annette
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Bruce, Malcolm
Bryant, Chris
Burden, Richard
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Lorely
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Caton, Mr. Martin
Challen, Colin
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clark, Ms Katy
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clegg, Mr. Nick
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Devine, Mr. Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Durkan, Mark
Engel, Natascha
Etherington, Bill
Farron, Tim
Foster, Mr. Don
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Galloway, Mr. George
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Gwynne, Andrew
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hemming, John
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Holmes, Paul
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horwood, Martin
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, David
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Irranca-Davies, Huw
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Kennedy, rh Mr. Charles
Kidney, Mr. David
Kramer, Susan
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Lepper, David
Love, Mr. Andrew
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mann, John
Marshall, Mr. David
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonnell, John
Meale, Mr. Alan
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moore, Mr. Michael
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Mulholland, Greg
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Owen, Albert
Prosser, Gwyn
Pugh, Dr. John
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, Mr. Alan
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Smith, Sir Robert
Spink, Bob
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, David
Taylor, Matthew
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Thurso, John
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Waltho, Lynda
Webb, Steve
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Stephen
Wishart, Pete

Tellers for the Ayes:

Jo Swinson and
Mr. Roger Williams


Afriyie, Adam
Allen, Mr. Graham
Amess, Mr. David
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brokenshire, James
Browning, Angela
Burgon, Colin
Burrowes, Mr. David
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Conway, Derek
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Davies, Philip
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobson, rh Frank
Donaldson, Mr. Jeffrey M.
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Dowd, Jim
Duddridge, James
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Eagle, Angela
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Field, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Grogan, Mr. John
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hammond, Stephen
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Jones, Mr. David
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Kawczynski, Daniel
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Loughton, Tim
MacDougall, Mr. John
Main, Anne
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Olner, Mr. Bill
Ottaway, Richard
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Penning, Mike
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Robinson, Mrs. Iris
Robinson, Mr. Peter
Rosindell, Andrew
Salter, Martin
Scott, Mr. Lee
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Sheridan, Jim
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Spicer, Sir Michael
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wiggin, Bill
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Young, rh Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Eric Forth and
Mr. Mark Harper

29 Nov 2005 : Column 143

Question accordingly negatived.
29 Nov 2005 : Column 144

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