“The closer we get to the referendum, the more we are hearing about the issue of extending votes to 16 and 17-year-olds. The strongest argument for doing so is that it is this generation which will have to live with the decision, probably for the majority of

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their lifetimes—and it is their opportunities that would most be affected by the vote. I believe it is absolutely right that they must have a say”.

That is what he said in the Stroud News and Journal. He has obviously been taking account of the views of his constituents, such as me. He extended that view, rather more eloquently, in City AM.

This is a one-off event and it is particularly important—

6 pm

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, before the noble Lord concludes his summary of the contributions on the subject made in the other place, does he recall that the honourable Member for Totnes, also a Conservative, said something to the effect that one-quarter of those born today will live to be 100. They will be here, even if some of us will not be.

Lord Tyler: I am sure that the noble Lord will be here. He has already displayed the sort of longevity that we expect in this House. Indeed, it may not be known to Members on all sides of your Lordships’ House that we currently have 14 years’ greater longevity than the average citizen in the United Kingdom, which says something about the way in which we are looked after in this place—it may also say something about the intellectual stimulus that we occasionally have in this place. However, I agree with the noble Lord; I referred to that particular Member of the other House, who spoke very eloquently on this point.

Lord Lawson of Blaby (Con): The noble Lord seems to be advancing two propositions, both of which I find puzzling. The first is that those of us in this Chamber have no concern for the future of our country after we are dead. I do not believe that that is the case at all. The second proposition is that 17 year-olds are somehow of a different generation from 18 year-olds. I do not understand that either.

Lord Tyler: My Lords, I have not actually come to my own views on this subject. I have simply been reporting the views of the noble Lord’s colleagues in both this and the other House. If, for example, he has an objection to the views of my local Member of Parliament—a Conservative: Mr Neil Carmichael—I suggest that he take it up with him. All I am trying to suggest is that it is now the common experience and approach that young people are mature, well-informed and ready to take this particular step on this particular issue. This is widely accepted in all parts of your Lordships’ House—and, I suggest, in the other House.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: When we discussed this in the context of giving the Scottish Parliament the power to decide this, I warned that the Scottish Parliament would give the vote to 16 year-olds and that this would then be used as an argument for doing the same here, which is what the noble Lord has been doing. Does this not relate to the issue of the age of majority? In Scotland, 16 year-olds are not allowed to buy a pint of beer or a packet of cigarettes. Should we not look at this in the context of the appropriate age of majority and not in the context of a Bill of this kind?

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Lord Tyler: I apologise that I only half agree with the noble Lord. Years ago, I said that we should address this issue in the wider sense. Indeed, it is one of the arguments for the constitutional convention that many on this side of the House now support.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: I want to pick up on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. Those who are 16 are not allowed to buy cigarettes or buy a drink, but they are not being told that they will never be allowed to buy cigarettes or buy a drink. After the referendum, if we decide to leave the European Union, that is it—we would leave. They would then never have the opportunity to decide whether or not they wish to be in the European Union. It seems to me that the analogy does not work; I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Tyler.

Lord Tyler: I am grateful to have that additional support from the Cross Benches.

I was about to go back very briefly to the other, very comparable, situation that the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, referred to. We have to take into account the practical example of the Scottish independence referendum.

I have to confess that, until now, many of us on this side of the House—certainly those of us on the Liberal Democrat benches—have theoretically had to argue this case. We do not have to do that any longer. We know now, from the Scottish independence referendum campaign, that young people in Scotland took this issue very seriously. They were very well-informed and registered in much greater numbers than opponents ever thought that they would: 109,593 young people in this age group registered and 75% of them voted. That is more than the next cohort up, where people tend to go away from home—off to new jobs or university— and lose touch with the electoral process. Only 54% of 18 to 24 year-olds voted, and 72% of 25 to 34 year-olds voted. Young people debated the issues with great intelligence and personal integrity, ignoring vested interests. Indeed, they were rather more balanced in the outcome, as far as we can detect, than middle-aged men, who were actually taken in by some of the myths of the separatists.

Here, then, is the practical example. What is so important about this is that it demonstrates that, when young people are asked what they think about a longer-term issue of such huge importance to the country and to them, they take it very seriously. Some Members of your Lordships’ House who go on behalf of the Lord Speaker to sixth forms very often find that that age group is rather better informed, and perhaps more mature in their views, than some 60 and 70 year-olds.

Lord Tebbit (Con): Has it ever occurred to the noble Lord that old people never get younger but young people, granted reasonable luck, get older? The older they get, the more they become like old people. It is a very curious thing. He is saying that their views as young people should be counted but that those of us who are in our advanced years are silly old fools who really should not be trusted with the future of the country at all.

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Lord Tyler: I have not yet proposed an age limit for voting. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, will have a vote in this referendum. He does not get one in a general election any more than I do, but he will be allowed a vote in this, which is one reason that some Members of your Lordships’ House feel that there is a clear case for extending the franchise. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, will vote the right way, although I have more confidence in the judgment of some 16 and 17 year-olds than I do in his.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: Was that a confession that the noble Lord is in favour of this because he thinks that these 16 year-olds will vote “the right way”?

Lord Tyler: It was not, my Lords. This issue is one on which the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, and his colleagues—who may have doubtful views on these matters—are just as likely to persuade young people to vote their way as I am. I just think that the judgment should be in the hands of the people who are going to be affected.

Baroness Crawley: Is it not the case that the 16 and 17 year-olds who voted in the Scottish referendum broke fairly evenly between the yes and no camps?

Lord Tyler: There is no concrete evidence of that—the ballot is secret. I think that there was a slight margin among 16 and 17 year-olds to vote no to independence. In the next group up, there was a slight increase.

I dare anybody in your Lordships’ House to say to the 16 and 17 year-olds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that they are not mature or well-enough informed, do not know what they are talking about and would be influenced by the wrong people—yet that the Scots are up to it. I just do not understand how we could do that. It is critical that this bedrock, this foundation stone of our representative democracy—the franchise—should in this respect be exactly the same throughout the country. I beg to move.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, I want to say a few words about my experience in the Scottish referendum, which the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, mentioned. I feel so strongly about this issue that I am here tonight despite the fact that in another place—I do not mean down the corridor, but in Tynecastle Park in Edinburgh—Heart of Midlothian are playing Celtic in the quarter-finals of the Scottish league cup. If any of my colleagues here know about my passion and enthusiasm for Heart of Midlothian football club, which I had the privilege of chairing for a couple of years, they will know that it is a great sacrifice for me to be here tonight. That indicates my strength of feeling on this issue.

If I was not convinced before the Scottish referendum that 16 and 17 year-olds should have a vote, the referendum campaign convinced me. I know that my noble friend Lady Adams, who was there as well, agrees with this. I was canvassing for people to vote against independence, and the enthusiasm for participating was absolutely fantastic. To give one example, I was going round Portobello, and some sixth-form pupils

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from Portobello High School came out and spoke to us on the corner of the street. They were arguing the case: they knew all the arguments on both sides. Some of them supported yes and some of them supported no; they were arguing with me and they were arguing with each other. We were doing that for about half an hour, and then one of them looked at me and said, “Hey, you’re that Foulkes fellow, aren’t you?”, and I said, “Oh, well done”. They really know what is going on.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom: Might the noble Lord’s view of 16 year-olds voting in the Scottish referendum have been different if an overwhelming number of them had voted to pull out of the union?

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: No, it would not. As I think the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, said, in so far as we know how they voted, the votes of the 16 and 17 year- olds were very similar to the 55:45 result among the older age groups, especially those immediately above them. Clearly, the information they received and the passion that they had did not make them all independence supporters—quite the reverse.

Let us look at general elections as well. The turnout of 18 to 24 year-olds has risen sharply in the past decade, from 38% in 2005 to 58% in 2015. Those people are participating more, and that is something that we should encourage—as well as encouraging the younger people as well.

I do not want to go on at length about this—although, as I said, I feel passionately about it. But I must add that young people understand the situation in Europe and the advantages they gain from our membership of the European Union. The ones that I have met and spoken with have a passion to ensure that we never go to war again. They have read the history books and they know—particularly this year and last year, with the centenary—about the Great War. They also know about the Second World War. They know that those wars started in Europe, and they want to make sure that peace and prosperity are secure—and they know that the European Union helps to ensure that.

6.15 pm

Young people also move around the European Union and meet people. They meet French, German and Polish young people in a way that never happened in our time. They go interrailing, they work and they holiday throughout the European Union—and the interrelations that take place are fantastic. That helps understanding; the fact that they know what life is like in other parts of Europe helps to make sure that we shall not have conflicts in the future. More and more young people also study. People from other countries in Europe study here in Britain, and people from the United Kingdom study in Europe. One of the great European Union programmes is Erasmus, which has provided £112 million for young Britons to study abroad, broaden their horizons and improve their skill sets in a fantastic way.

Finally, I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, who raised the idea that 16 and 17 year-olds cannot buy a pint of beer in the pub, and mentioned some

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other things for which people have to wait until they are 18. But at the age of 16 people can work, they can pay taxes, they can join the Armed Forces, and they can marry. Those are far more responsible things than just drinking a pint of beer. There is every reason why we should make this change—and I hope we shall do it enthusiastically on all sides of the House.

Earl Attlee (Con): My Lords, the noble Lord, in his interesting speech, talked about youngsters being able to join the Armed Forces. Does he recall that they cannot go to war until they are 18? Will he advocate lowering that age limit?

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: No, I do not want to change that. People can join as boy soldiers, and they can prepare to defend their country. If they are ready to prepare to defend their country, they should be able to vote in the referendum.

Lord Wigley: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 9 and 20, in my name, which are linked to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, and are aimed at achieving the same objective. We have all seen a number of different proposals for doing that, but there seems to be a broad-based feeling that, for this purpose, the vote should be extended to 16 and 17 year-olds throughout the United Kingdom.

Many of the arguments have been ably put by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, on the basis of his experience of the Scottish referendum. I too campaigned in the Scottish referendum—although I am sorry to say that we were not on the same side, and that I probably campaigned less successfully than he did. One thing that we could all see, whichever side we supported, was the enthusiasm that was there and the willingness to engage. I am sure that a lot of young people will take what they got from that referendum campaign with them through the rest of their lives. I very much hope that the lessons from Scotland will be borne in mind, and that even if we do not come to a conclusion on this matter tonight at Committee stage, they will be borne in mind on Report.

Another factor that has not been mentioned is the way in which the interest and enthusiasm of 16 and 17 year-olds, and other young people, can affect older people. Older people find that they have to engage with arguments that perhaps they have not previously thought through themselves. Some may be led to follow the line taken by 16 and 17 year-olds and some may not. Certainly in Scotland many families were divided—and not necessarily on an age basis. I accept that we cannot say which way young people’s votes went, but my goodness, they made a difference to the process of holding a referendum, and the longer-term benefits were that people would be more active citizens as a result of their experience, whatever the outcome of the referendum might be.

I remind noble Lords that for a possible referendum in Wales on tax-varying powers—I believe that my noble friend Lord Elis-Thomas could confirm this—powers have already been passed over to the National Assembly by Westminster, so that any such referendum that may take place could be open for 16 and 17 year- olds to participate in. So the principle is being extended

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for the purpose of referenda. If it is valid in the context of a referendum on tax-varying powers, how much more so is it when such far-reaching decisions are being taken in the context of the relationship with Europe?

There has been talk in Scotland among some people—I do not necessarily agree with them—that there should not be referenda too frequently. I certainly feel in the context of Europe that we should not be having referenda too frequently, and a decision taken now is likely to stay with those 16 and 17 year-olds for the rest of their lives. It is very far reaching, and whichever way it goes, it will be with them.

The other consideration is whether they are equipped to make a decision. I feel that 16 and 17 year-olds—indeed young people generally—are more likely to be equipped to take a decision on this than many older people, if we are trying to come to a conclusion on capacity to take a decision. We have heard of three factors and I want to underline and stress one of them. We have heard about tax-paying and the ability to enrol, if not directly to fight, in the Armed Forces. That is the question and it was the basic rationale behind the creation of the European Union two generations ago. There were people with a vision that never again would our continent tear itself to bits with two bloody civil wars. These young people’s future can be determined by that. More than any other argument that we will pursue from now until the referendum, there is the question of holding this continent of ours together and not fighting each other in future. That must be basic. For that purpose, if for no other, those young people should have the vote.

Lord Balfe (Con): My Lords, earlier this year I tabled a Private Member’s Bill that came so low down the list that it is never likely to be debated. It sought to extend to European citizens the right to vote in British elections, on the basis of no taxation without representation. If people pay taxes to the British Exchequer, the fact that they hold a different passport should not preclude them from exercising a say in how their money is spent. Having tabled that Bill, I went into the electoral system that we have in great depth. I did not realise exactly how complex it is. That certainly led me to conclude that a debate on the European Union Referendum Bill is not the place to start extending the franchise.

All my life I have heard guff about young people. When I was 16 years-old and I became an official in the local branch of my trade union, everybody was saying, “Isn’t it marvellous, we really need young people here?”. There is a sort of idolisation of the young. Of course, we need young people but we also need mature people. I spoke in our group meeting not so long ago against the idea of throwing all noble Lords out of this House when they get to 80. I am some way short of 80 but I do not propose to support something that disfranchises people because they have reached a certain age. I know some people of 60 who are nowhere near as bright as our good and noble friend Lord Plumb. He is not here at the moment, but at the age of 90 he gave one of the best speeches I have heard in the European Parliament recently when he spoke at the Former Members’ Association.

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To get back to the point, when this was proposed initially, I thought it was tabled because the “yes” side thought that more young people would vote yes than no. I am not sure that that is the case now, having looked at the evidence. I now ask, why are we extending or changing the franchise on the back of a Bill about the European Union? Why are we making these changes when we consider the difficulties that we could have in registering the said people? I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, to respond to that. This is not like Scotland where there was a long lead-in to the referendum between the Act and the voting date. This referendum could take place within a very short time. For the moment, I am not convinced that the age and wisdom of a small group of people spanning just two years is worth making a fundamental change to the electoral system.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): When the noble Lord is canvassing, I wonder whether he has had the experience, as I have, of knocking on a door and having a conversation with somebody who really does not know what you are talking about. They then sort of talk back at you, and when you say, “Where did you get that information?”, they say, “I read it in the Sun”. I am afraid to say that a lot of 16 and 17 year-olds who have citizenship lessons at school and who live in a world where there is information coming at them from every which way, are more able to take decisions than many people who currently have the vote.

Lord Balfe: I note the noble Baroness’s point. I would say that it is a matter of opinion, not a matter of fact. Of course, I have had many conversations on doorsteps.

Baroness Crawley: It is not a matter of opinion when we are talking about the maturity and capacity of young people, as my noble friend said. If we look back over the scan of 40 years since the last European referendum, we will see some astonishing changes. I have figures from the House of Commons Library showing that the number of young people going into further and higher education in the year I was born was just over 3% of the population. Today, all that time later beyond 1950, it is now coming up to 50%—it is 45% or around that figure. Young people today are more fit for purpose than they have ever been. They are fit for purpose on higher education, travel, literacy, computer literacy and cultural awareness, and are the best and most fit for purpose generation of young 16 and 17 year-olds that we have ever had.

Lord Balfe: I also thank the noble Baroness for her intervention but this is a Bill not about extending the franchise but about a European referendum. I intend to vote yes in this referendum unless some dreadful tragedy happens in the renegotiation. I am not persuaded that extending the vote is part of the purpose of this Bill. It is as simple as that. It will lead to a lot of problems. It may be within the noble Lord’s prerogative, as he appears to be responding to this amendment, so I ask him to raise with his colleagues the need for a fundamental look at the electoral system in this country.

I was recently monitoring an election in a place called Kyrgyzstan, on the borders with China. It has introduced biometric testing for being on the electoral

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register. I learnt when I was there that Mr Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the UN, believes that this is a way of having votes without fraud. There are all sorts of ideas out there and I believe that these amendments, which I might be prepared to support in a Bill extending the franchise, are none the less not right for this particular Bill. I ask the noble Lord to communicate to his colleagues the desirability of a look at the way in which the franchise works. It seems to me odd, and has done for a long time, that people can pay tax and not have a vote, and people can pay no tax at all, can be living in, for instance, Brussels with highly paid jobs for many years, and according to some noble Lords be completely out of touch with reality and the world, yet they can vote in a UK election.

I suggest that we need a fundamental look at the franchise. I have steered three children successfully through the gap from 16 to 18—they are now well beyond it—and they vote for a variety of parties. I look round and see that all three of the major parties represented in this House have had votes from our family in the recent past, so they are certainly capable of making up their minds. I end where I began: I do not think this Bill is the place to extend the franchise.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, my name is on an amendment similar to the one introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Tyler. I agree with him in saying that the amendments seek to achieve the same objective by the same method.

6.30 pm

The noble Lord made it clear, and I would make it clear, that we are not moving a general change to the franchise. We are arguing the case for 16 and 17 year- olds to have the vote in this referendum and this referendum only. The more general case will no doubt come up at a later stage, because that seems to be the way in which public opinion is gradually moving, but that is not why these amendments have been tabled. They have been tabled for reasons that others mentioned: the outcome of this referendum will be of crucial importance to people of 16 and 17 next year and the year after.

Before I go any further, perhaps I should declare an interest. I have two grandchildren who will benefit if this were to take place, but I have not asked them how they would vote and I would not dream of doing so. The case, however, is a strong one. It has been argued here that the evidence of the Scottish example is enlightening. When the Scottish Parliament made its decision, it did so because, as the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, said with deep regret, the Government, who are moving this Bill, held the door open for it, just as they have done in the Welsh case. We are asking the Government to hold the door open on the European referendum, and that alone, for the 16 and 17 year-olds. It would be odd if the Government, having facilitated these moves for 16 and 17 year-olds in other referendums, were to deny them the same in this one, which is likely to have more profound effects on their lives than anything that has been voted on in recent years.

I hope that we can move forward during this debate to establishing these amendments in my name, and in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, and of a

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number of other noble Lords. This would be the right thing to do and we would not regret it. This has nothing to do with how this particular cohort would vote. The history of the 19th century is littered with governments who were interested in changing the franchise in the belief that it would help them win the next election and who were proved totally wrong. That is a mug’s game and is not what we should be talking about tonight. We should be talking about the equity of giving 16 and 17 year-olds the vote in something that will affect their lives over, in many cases, 70 or 80 years.

Baroness Suttie (LD): My Lords, I agree with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, on the Scottish experience in September last year. At a time when there are genuine concerns about voter apathy and lower voter turnout, the Scottish experience showed that you can engage and enthuse young people to believe that their vote really will make a difference. All the 16 and 17 year-olds to whom I have spoken were extremely positive about being able to vote in that referendum.

With this high turnout and higher levels of voter engagement achieved, it would be a backward step politically, not least in the Scottish context, not to include the same 16 and 17 year-olds in the referendum on the EU. If the referendum is held in the summer of next year, we could potentially face a situation in which a young Scot, who had just turned 16 in August 2014, for example, and so was able to vote in the Scottish referendum, would find themselves unable to vote on the future membership of the EU next summer. Can the Minister confirm whether the Government have given due consideration to the potential political impact, as well as the factual one, of this group of young Scots? Have they assessed the numbers involved in Scotland in this situation?

Lord Davies of Stamford: My Lords, there is no way, either empirically or by reference to theory, in which one can reach what might be an agreed doctrine on the right age at which people should begin to enter into a parliamentary franchise. We could debate the matter all night as to whether it should be 16, 17, 18 or some other age, or why it should be one particular and not another. We would never come to a definitive conclusion.

If we debated what have to be the essential qualities of a law, and especially the essential qualities of a constitutional law or rule, we would come to a definitive conclusion. By definition a constitutional law or rule must have a very wide degree of support. It must have legitimacy. That is the essence of an effective constitution. You cannot have legitimacy if you have a law that is contradictory and incoherent. At present we have a law or set of rules that are utterly incoherent.

It is not possible to find a respectable argument to say to a young Scot, in exactly the sort of case cited in the noble Baroness’s intervention a moment ago, that they had the right to vote in the Scottish referendum on independence and the break-up of the United Kingdom but no right to vote in the referendum on the future of our membership of the European Union.

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I have yet to hear a respectable argument that could be delivered to such a young person. If somebody on either side of the House has one I would be delighted to give way immediately so that we could hear what that respectable argument is. I simply do not think that it exists.

It is also not a respectable argument to say to a young English person, “The Scots were able to vote in an important referendum but you are not capable of exercising the same degree of choice as a Scottish person of the same age”. That would be a hideous thing to say to anybody. Of course this applies equally in Wales. The noble Lord, Lord Wigley, gave us a good example. Young people in Wales are now being told that they have a right to vote on whether the Welsh Government should have tax-raising powers, but not on whether Wales and the United Kingdom should remain part of the European Union. On what possible basis can one make that distinction? What possible respectable argument could one use in saying that to such a young person, who would quite rightly be challenging that kind of judgment?

At the moment we have complete incoherence, which we should not have because it is deeply damaging to the legitimacy of our constitution. The logic of what I am saying means that we should also change the voting age for Westminster general elections. One thing that we absolutely should not do is keep the present franchise for the referendum on the European Union, cutting out 16 to 18 year-olds throughout the United Kingdom, including Scotland, and then a year or two later change the voting age for Westminster elections. In other words, we should not deliberately close the door on a referendum that, as had rightly been said, affects people for the next 40 or 50 years—this will not affect us in the House in this time, but it will affect those young people—and then say that these people can vote now in Westminster elections after all: we have waited a couple of years but have cut you out of the referendum, which is even more strategically important for the country. That would be an indefensible thing to do.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I will have a go at a respectable argument. Is the answer to the noble Lord’s point about the mess that we are in that we should not proceed with constitutional or franchise reform on a piecemeal basis?

On the point about the difference between a 16 year-old north of the border and south of it, I am sure that the noble Lord has been to a place called Gretna Green. That exists because 16 year-olds south of the border are not allowed to marry without parental consent, whereas in Scotland that consent is not needed. There is a precedent. It is not a particularly good one, but it illustrates what happens when you do not look at the age of majority in a coherent, cross-border manner.

Lord Davies of Stamford: Not for the first time in these European debates, the noble Lord and I, although associated with very different camps, agree on something. We agree on the word “coherence”—a word that the noble Lord used and which I used myself. I totally agree with what he said. One should not legislate in a piecemeal fashion, particularly for constitutional legislation. One should look at the whole. That is

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precisely why my party proposes a constitutional convention to ensure that we do not go in for piecemeal legislation on the constitution. That is another debate for another day.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: I point out to the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, that it was his Government who let the genie out of the bottle precisely by enabling Scotland to give 16 and 17 year-olds the vote. I am delighted, but once the genie is out of the bottle I am afraid that you cannot put it back in.

Lord Davies of Stamford: I fear that that is the case. The noble Lord and I agree on coherence. The only way to restore coherence now is by the way I have just suggested. The pragmatics—the actual experience of this—are that 16 and 17 year-olds make very mature choices. That has been the lesson of the Scottish referendum. Giving them the vote has encouraged and increased participation rates, and increased intellectual interest in politics and in public life in general among young people. All those things are very desirable. The pragmatics support the theory.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I am most grateful to the noble Lord. It was not our Government who let the genie out of the bottle, but the Scottish nationalists in Scotland. It was this House and the other House that gave the Scottish nationalist Government the power to make piecemeal changes to the franchise. I warned against it at the time. I warned that we would end up with people making piecemeal changes to the franchise, which should be looked at in the context of the overall age of majority.

I am not sure that I do agree with the noble Lord. We agree that it is a mess but the way to sort it out is to look at it across the board on the basis of the age of majority, not to add to the mess by making yet one more piecemeal change regarding voting in this particular referendum. I was responding to his point on what you say to a 16 year-old about how the law is different on different sides of the border. Gretna Green is a long-standing example.

Lord Davies of Stamford: I had not quite finished my remarks. I will do the noble Lord the courtesy of replying to his intervention. We both agree on the need for coherence. I totally agree that we do not want to make another piecemeal change, which is why I suggest that we make a universal change. In my view the Government should take the opportunity to say that they will legislate as soon as possible and bring forward legislation that will enable us to reduce the age of the franchise for Westminster elections—indeed, for all elections in this country.

Lord Blencathra: My Lords, I oppose these amendments. I appreciate the Government’s position that they had to select an electoral register that would be appropriate for this referendum. No one register is perfect. Clearly the one used for the EU elections is not appropriate, nor is the one for local government elections. Therefore, I accept that the one used for the last general election is probably as good as any because it is based on the age of majority.

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I believe that, whatever amendments we make, we should stick with the age of 18. We have to pick an age somewhere and there is nothing magical about reducing it to 16. One of the arguments advanced is that this referendum will affect that generation for 40 years. If it affects 16 and 17 year-olds for the next 40 or 50 years, then it affects 15 year-olds, 14 year-olds and 13 year-olds, many of whom are equally switched on and with it and know what is going on. Yet there is no suggestion that it should go down to that age. If the argument is based on the referendum affecting millions of young people, there is no logical reason to stick at the age of 16.

The other argument used is Scotland. The argument that we have heard tonight is that there are so many enthusiastic young Scots. Scotland is recommended because it made young people enthusiastic for voting and for change and that we should therefore follow the Scottish example. I profoundly disagree. Just because Scotland did it does not make it wise or right. When I was aged 16 in Scotland in 1969 I was heavily involved in politics. I was enthusiastic, keen and reasonably well informed. I had absolute certainty, not just on how this country should be run. I even had suggestions on how Chairman Mao should amend some of his little red book. I knew what Mr Brezhnev should do to make the Soviet Union better. I had a wide range of enthusiastic views, but thank goodness I was not in a position then for the Government to be inflicted with my vote or for my childish enthusiasms to be put into law or enacted.

There are very few areas where we treat 16 as the age of majority. That is quite telling. Indeed, we treat 16 and 17 year-olds as children with no real say of their own in a large number of areas. What are those areas? Sixteen year-olds can get married, but only with their parents’ consent, although Scotland is different. While 16 year-olds can marry, they cannot buy a kitchen knife until they are aged 18. I know that for a fact because I was the Minister who put that law through, for some reason or another. Sixteen year-olds can join the Army, but only with their parents’ consent. They cannot go into combat until they are aged 18.

So what can they not do until they aged 18? They cannot buy tobacco or alcohol. They cannot gamble. They are too young to be sentenced to a young offender institution because the law regards them as children. They cannot legally watch a film with an 18 classification. That is a telling point. If our law considers them too young to watch a violent or pornographic film, how can we say that they are capable of making a decision on major political issues? They cannot serve on a jury. If they are regarded as incapable of exercising judgment there, why are they able to exercise judgment on national political matters?

6.45 pm

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: Did the noble Lord make exactly the same speech when the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18?

Lord Blencathra: I did not make that speech. I was in no position to make it. I cannot recall what my views were. I was not a Member of Parliament then

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and I certainly was not in this place. My point of view now is based on what the law currently is for the age of majority and why Governments and both Houses of Parliament have accepted 18 and granted all these rights to people only when they reach the age of 18.

Let me briefly conclude on this point. Until you are aged 18 you cannot open a bank account in your own name. You cannot even get a tattoo, buy fireworks or make a will. You cannot even carry an organ donor card or use a sunbed for tanning. You cannot stand as a Member of Parliament until you are aged 18. If we lower the voting age to 16 are we then going to allow people to stand as a Member of Parliament when they are 16? There are a range of other examples but I will not bore the House with them.

Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab): I was born in Scotland and I was brought up in a Scottish Conservative household. When I was 16 I thought that the election result, when a Labour Government was returned after 13 years of what is now known as Tory misrule, was the end of the world. I had been taught to believe that. Two years later I was canvassing for Labour in the election.

What changed me was that at the age of 16 I could get pregnant. At that time I could not get birth control in this country at that age. During that period, when I was aged 16 or 17, the first Brook Advisory Centre opened in Edinburgh. I could then go on the pill. Quite frankly, it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. The knowledge that I could not get proper support for being sexually active—I had had a good Scottish diet and was very precocious for my age—was what politicised me. I have no qualms about announcing that here tonight. It is a real insult to people aged 16 and 17 to believe that, when they are in a position where they make crucial decisions about their own future, they cannot make a crucial decision about the future of this country in Europe.

Lord Blencathra: There is a lot of detail there and it is a route that I dare not step down. Whatever language or terminology I try carefully to choose, I will inevitably offend someone somewhere. That is not a risk I wish to take. I simply say that the fact that one can get the pill at the age of 16—rightly so—is no justification for saying one should therefore have the right to vote.

I concluded with a list of all the things that Parliament has decided that people can do only when they are aged 18. Some sound so trivial, but if that is what Parliament decides, it is perfectly legitimate to say that the age of majority is fixed at 18 and that we should not lower it for the purposes of this referendum.

Just because young Scottish people aged 16 and 17 were enthusiastic, it is irrelevant to deciding on this matter. Politically, we know why the SNP Government lowered the age. It is because their private polling suggested that 16 and 17 year-olds would be twice as likely to vote for independence as for staying in the union. You can bet your bottom dollar—or your pound Scots—that if their private polling had been the other way around, the Scottish Government would not have lowered the voting age to 16. They would have kept it.

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If these amendments are passed, accepted by the other place and become law, we will have 16 and 17 year-old Commonwealth and Irish citizens also being granted the right to vote, because they are included on the register. If some noble Lords’ amendments to include European citizens were passed as well, we would have 16 and 17 year-old children from European countries also being allowed to vote. If we get a close result with that scenario, I think a lot of British people would be outraged that a majority of 200,000 to 300,000, either way, had swung the vote, because of the inclusion of 16 and 17 year-old European, Commonwealth and Irish citizens. That is a rather dangerous route to go down. However, we may be able to talk about that later.

I oppose these amendments because the age of majority is 18. It should stick at that but if we want to change it we should do it in a general Bill relating to the franchise. We should then take a close look at all the other things that these 16 and 17 year-old children cannot do, because, if we lower the age of majority to 16, we should change the law on a whole range of things from buying knives to buying a pint.

The Earl of Listowel (CB): My Lords, I feel passionately about this issue. I have been wondering why that is the case, especially as so many people that I respect hold exactly the opposite position to myself. Principally, it is because I have often seen, over many years, young people in care being allowed to make decisions that are not age-appropriate. A local authority will, quite commonly, offer a 16 year-old in care a flat of their own and a sum of money or the choice to stay with their foster carer. Many choose to take the flat and the pot of money. We are told that in many cases, drug dealers befriend and move in with them, or they cannot manage to meet the rent and they lose the flat. I spoke to a foster carer who said that her foster daughter was doing so well in school before a local authority offered her a flat of her own; now she is doing very badly in school and the carer does not know how she is doing in her flat. One of the reasons I feel so strongly about this amendment is that I am concerned about whether this is an age-appropriate decision—although clearly children are not going to harm themselves, in the way that children in care apparently can often be harmed by being giving decisions too early, in this particular case.

I listened with great interest to my noble friend. I have sympathy for his concern that this is a very long-term decision that we are coming to as a nation, which will affect the young people in question particularly. But I am afraid I disagree with him; I heard the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, differently. I respect the great depth of knowledge and the effort that the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, has put into this issue; I have heard him speak about it on many occasions. My sense, is that for him, at least, this is part of a project—not just an issue for this particular referendum Bill but more generally—to lower the franchise. I feel really concerned about that, although there are many people I respect who think it is the right thing to do. Some child development experts would agree with them, while others would be concerned.

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There is concern about the impressibility of 16 and 17 year-olds. Some of your Lordships may remember the film “All Quiet on the Western Front”. It begins in a schoolroom, with a teacher talking to young people and enthusing them with notions of the greatness of their country and the importance of fighting for it. It then follows their careers in the army. Your Lordships may remember that in the Chinese Great Leap Forward young people were targeted and used as the force for taking that forward. Your Lordships may also remember how effective, in the 1930s, some nations were at manipulating their youth to do things none of us would agree with.

There has been concern about growing nationalism across Europe and there are increasing pressures. Thankfully—and tribute should be paid to the Government and the coalition Government before them—we have avoided the serious unemployment which is a large contributory factor to this. But at some future date we may not be so fortunate. It concerns me that we are painting a target on the back of our young people by giving them the vote at the ages of 16 and 17. There are people who are very good at using the internet to manipulate people, and 16 and 17 year-olds, as we know, have been vulnerable to this in various ways.

I am also concerned about the wider ramifications for children around the country. Noble Lords have spoken from experience, which I cannot yet do, about their own children. Of course, many children will not have had the support that I hope your Lordships will have had—I hope I am not speaking out of turn. I am thinking particularly about the work the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, took forward recently during the passage of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. The noble Lord listened to the concerns of parents of 17 year-olds who had been held in custody in police cells. They were sometimes held over the weekend for two nights and, regrettably, a number of those young people had taken their own lives after that experience. The noble Lord listened to those concerns and acted promptly to change the law. I was pleased to learn, recently, that it had changed and that 17 year-olds in custody will be treated as children.

The last time that we debated this matter, Barnardo’s produced a briefing in which it sought to change the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. In that Act, the age of majority is 16 and Barnardo’s wanted to see it raised to 17. In aid of his approach, the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, put forward the argument that if you are old enough to marry and join the army at 16, you should be able to vote. Others may say that if you are old enough to vote at the age of 16, you do not need to be treated as a child and can be put in a police cell at the age of 17. If you are old enough to vote at 16, maybe it is not so outrageous to have an age of criminal responsibility of 10—the lowest in Europe: I think the average age is 14. I am concerned from that angle.

I conclude with my concern about child development issues. These children are in the middle of adolescence, which is a very interesting period. I do not want to be too technical and maybe this will be quite obvious to most of your Lordships. Young children are very attached to their parents and to their siblings. In adolescence,

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they make a move from that attachment to an attachment to their peers and eventually to a romantic partner of their own. That is a huge change, which will play out in many different ways. Partly, they will react against their parents. Quite often they will take polar opposite views and values to their parents—for some time, at least. I can think of that in my own family history. My father grew up in a landowning family; he was an aristocrat. When he went to private school, he became the school’s only socialist, reacting very strongly against the ideals of his parents. He moderated over time.

We are not talking about young people voting Labour or not, but I worry that if we set this precedent it will be used on other occasions. Young people may be more likely to vote for Labour or the Liberal Democrats—parents tend to be more conservative, so their children may be reacting.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Forgive me, My Lords, I did not understand the last point that the noble Lord made about Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour. The noble Lord makes a very powerful speech, with which I disagree. Will he accept that there are many older vulnerable people who are just as open to persuasion from external forces as young people? The noble Lord will, like many of us, go into schools—with whatever scheme—and find young people who are absolutely able to withstand pressure and who are not vulnerable in that way. I would be grateful if he would explain the point about Conservatives and Labour because this has absolutely nothing to do with party politics. This is about empowering young people however they wish to vote. It is not about being in or out but giving them the ability to vote and determine their future.

7 pm

The Earl of Listowel: I thank the noble Baroness for her intervention. I will make two responses, if I may. Yes, there are vulnerable elderly and middle-aged people—all kinds of vulnerability across different ages—but we recognise that childhood is a particularly vulnerable period and we have various protections for childhood to allow children to mature. Unfortunately, some do not mature. Some come from families with alcoholic or drug-taking backgrounds and it is difficult for them to move on and mature properly. But our starting point is that we should be protective of children.

To answer the noble Baroness’s question in another way, I was advised that prior to the last general election a caricature was sent out on the internet of the then leader of the Opposition. It was very powerful and it affected a lot of young people because it ridiculed the leader of the Opposition. I was told this by a mother. I can see how well that would work. That might have been sent to a load of 25 year-olds, but I suspect that a number of 25 year-olds might not be so impressed by a caricature of the leader of the Opposition as a 16 year-old might be.

I have probably spoken long enough. I see that there are very strong arguments on the other side. I have a lot of sympathy with hearing the voice of young people and involving them as much as possible, but I have concerns—

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Lord Hannay of Chiswick: The noble Earl has made some very moving points about various aspects of the vulnerability of young people, but does he not accept that the matter we are debating now, which is whether or not they should have a vote in one referendum between now and the end of 2017, does not really link up with all those issues of contagion that he has referred to in other contexts? I understand perfectly well why it might be wrong to put 16 year-olds into flats of their own and give them a lot of money. Fortunately, it is a criminal offence to give somebody money to vote, so that will not happen. Perhaps he might consider whether the parallels apply across the whole board that he has sketched in with such passion.

The Earl of Listowel: I thank my noble friend for his intervention. I regret that I was not able to speak at Second Reading—what I have said is probably more of a Second Reading speech—but I have been involved in a lot of other business in the House.

My understanding is that the noble Lord is very clear in his mind that his intention with this amendment is to change the franchise specifically for this particular occasion. But I regret to say, and I have followed this debate about lowering the franchise several times, that my sense is that there is a large body of Members of your Lordships’ House who wish to expand the franchise much more widely and see this occasion as an important opportunity to proceed with that. One has heard many references this afternoon to the Scottish referendum as a justification for acting in this way. I think I have spoken long enough. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Dobbs (Con): My Lords, a considerable amount of thunder has been generated by a debate which is actually quite subtle. There are no blacks and whites in this but a kaleidoscope of colours, and that is entirely appropriate when we are talking about young people who are just starting their adult lives.

My first political experience was as a 12 year-old when I was knocking up on election day and I had a bucket of water thrown over me. That was certainly an immersion in the political process, but I am not sure it gave me a right to vote at the age of 12. I have listened very carefully to this impassioned debate. I always listen very carefully to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. I usually agree with him. The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, made a passionate speech about why we should not give 16 year-olds the vote. My noble friend—I am not sure if he is here—Lord Borwick, of Hawkshead, made a passionate speech at Second Reading against giving votes to 16 year-olds. I have just listened to a very powerful speech by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, about the matter, but I assure him that I do not believe that this is a matter of party politics. It is a matter of judgment which crosses all parties.

Like so many others, when I was campaigning up in Scotland, I was very impressed with the response and the seriousness of young Scottish voters. We older voters might actually learn a great deal from their example and their engagement. I am bothered by the fact that, although the coalition Government and the Prime Minister did not specifically approve votes

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for 16 year-olds, they did acquiesce in votes for 16 year- olds. So the question I am struggling with is: how can it be right to allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in a referendum on Scotland but not in a referendum on Europe? There has to be some sort of consistency. Perish the thought, but I actually find myself agreeing with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Davies, was saying earlier—I hope he will forgive me for that.

It is a matter of balance. When I think about it and when I see those who have been supporting votes for 16 and 17 year-olds, I may not lose only my balance but shall probably lose my sense of sanity as well—climbing into bed with the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes; it will have to be a very stout bed-frame to take both of us. I have no idea which way 16 and 17 year-olds might vote. Will they look up to that European ideal that impressed so many of us when we were younger, or will they simply do what so many other young voters in Europe have done and stick two fingers up at the establishment? I suspect that the establishment will be piling in to say, “You must vote to remain”. I do not know, but it does not matter. It comes down to a question of balance and judgment.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: Is it not an argument about maturity, not about how people will vote? When I was 16, I thought I was a socialist but I grew out of it. Just because the Scottish Government, for political reasons, decided to give 16 year-olds the vote, that does not mean that the argument about maturity is being addressed. Is that not the central argument?

Lord Dobbs: It is certainly a central argument. I have a 20 year-old who is a devout Corbynista. I would love to take the vote from him, but I do not have the right to do so, even though I think that his judgment on politics—as well as choice of football club—may be rather flawed. If one takes a totally logical approach, as the noble Baroness was saying earlier, there are many elderly people who are perhaps not as capable and as competent as they might be in exercising their judgment. We have to look for a balance. I cannot see how we can face 16 and 17 year-old voters and say yes in Scotland and no as far as Europe is concerned. Although I shall end up with some very strange bedfellows on this one, I urge my noble friend to take a very close look at this issue again and see whether the Government cannot make progress on it.

Lord Taverne (LD): My Lords, when the whole question about the voting age came up and the suggestion was made that it should be reduced to 16, I had considerable doubts about it, for the sorts of reasons that have been advanced by a number of people, in quite reasonable speeches, who are opposed to the change.

However, the fact is that there have been a number of inquiries into this and most also turned out to be very doubtful. First, there was the 2004 commission which qualified its recommendation that the voting age should remain at 18 by saying:

“We propose further research on the social and political awareness of those around age 18 with a view to undertaking a further review of the minimum age for electoral participation in the future”.

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Then there was the Power report in 2006 which recommended that the voting age should be lowered to 16, explaining:

“Our own experience and evidence suggests that just as with the wider population, when young people are faced with a genuine opportunity to involve themselves in a meaningful process that offers them a real chance of influence, they do so with enthusiasm and with responsibility”.

It came to the opposite conclusion to what I had felt earlier, that someone of 16 might not be sufficiently informed or use their vote sufficiently responsibly at 16.

Then came the Youth Citizenship Commission of 2007 which did not recommend a reduction of the voting age. It found that there was in fact a majority in favour of lowering the age but it thought the sample was too small, saying:

“This is a relatively small and not necessarily representative sample of the population”.

So there was a diffidence about the commission’s recommendations because of a shortage of evidence. The commission went on to say:

“We have found that there is a real evidence gap”.

However, there is no longer an evidence gap. We have had experience from a very wide sample and everyone has found that people in the lower age group deserve praise for the way they approached their task. They found them very responsible and very keen to get the right information. The general feeling was that this lowering of the voting age had been an enormous success. I think that the Scottish referendum has completely altered the situation because this gap in the evidence which the previous commission spoke about has been filled.

There is one other consideration which we should take into account. One of the serious consequences of a vote for Brexit in the referendum is that it will almost automatically lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom. If Scotland votes for staying and England votes for leaving, I cannot see that there will not be another referendum. One has to consider Scottish reactions very carefully. If I was a young person in Scotland—that would have been some time ago—I would be furious if I was allowed to vote in the Scottish referendum but not in the referendum which is of even greater importance if it involves the whole of one’s future. The same position may obtain in Wales because Wales may well decide as well to lower the voting age. If one really wants to keep the United Kingdom together I do not think one wants to confront young Scottish voters and others in Scotland who will be equally adverse to it. That only increases the chance of the break-up of the United Kingdom. The evidence is now plain that young people act responsibly and that they care about the information; the evidence should suggest that there must be a change in the law.

Lord Higgins (Con): My Lords, I am not in favour of these amendments and I think it would be very naïve to suppose that if we accept them we will avoid a slippery slope as far as the age of consent is concerned, along with the many other issues that have been raised. If that kind of change is to be made, rather than being pushed into it by the precedent of what happened in Scotland it is very important we should have an overall

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view of the whole issue in a Bill which is publicised and which allows the public to express their view on all these issues. The Government are right to say they will use—with very minor exceptions—the same franchise as was used in the very recent local election.

Many noble Lords have been over this course before. I remember very well when I was in the House of the Commons that the issue of lowering the voting age came up. I said to my secretary that if I got a single letter—at that time I had an enormous mailbag—from someone in the lower age group saying they would like the vote, then I would vote for it, but if I did not get such a letter I would vote against it. I did not get such a letter. In this day and age we are not inundated to the same extent with mailbags. Instead we are inundated with emails. I wonder how many Members have had an email from someone in the age group which the proposal would enfranchise saying that they would really like the vote. I have not had one. I have had enormous numbers of emails but not one like that. That is because this issue has not been publicised. This has become an internal view of the House of Lords and we are not taking other arguments sufficiently into account.

7.15 pm

One can run all the traditional arguments about slippery slopes, the thin end of the wedge and that the line must be drawn somewhere. I am not quite clear why these amendments draw the line where they do because it is not a change of one year but of two. No one has suggested why that should be so. On the argument about how long people will live after they vote in the referendum, you could make a very good argument for 11 year-olds. I happen to have an 11 year- old grandson who is highly sophisticated and has had his own website since the age of seven where he advertises the products of the farm on which he lives. It is a rather unusual website as it says at the end, “This website has been created with no harm to animals”.

In addition to that, because he takes an interest in political affairs, he has sent me long emails asking why the Government do not have an app which could be accessed by refugees—because many of them have phones and are on the web—offering immediate communication between the refugees and the Government. He is in favour of such a change. This is at the age of 11 so I am not sure why we are justifying it at 16. My own feeling is that however bright particular people may be, there are big differences between them. They are undergoing their education and in many cases they will not have completed it by the age of 16.

Overall, I do not think we should go along with the precedent created in Scotland. As far as I am aware, there was nothing in any manifesto which said we must change the age of consent generally—noble Lords will correct me if I am wrong—so if we are going to go along that route we must take into account all the points made from the Front Bench. We really ought not to go along with making a change of this kind in legislation which does not cover all the broader arguments.

Viscount Trenchard: My Lords, I echo the views of my noble friend Lord Higgins. I argue against these amendments on the grounds that this is not the proper

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place or time to extend the franchise to 16 and 17 year- olds. Just because, in my view, a mistake was made in Scotland, that does not justify making a second mistake. Two wrongs do not make a right.

You could also argue that, if you think that 16 and 17 year-olds do not have the political maturity to make decisions for the next five years, how much less should we trust them to have a voice in decisions that are going to have an effect for a very much longer period than that? I do not think you should make a distinction on the grounds that someone is going to live much longer and this is going to affect them for much longer. If you have political maturity sufficient to elect your Member of Parliament, you probably have the same political maturity to vote in a referendum.

Another point that has not yet been made is this. I wonder what the result would be if you asked a cross-section of 18 to 25 year-olds whether they thought that 16 and 17 year-olds should be given the vote.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: I wonder whether the noble Viscount is aware of or takes part in the admirable Peers in Schools scheme that the Lord Speaker has instituted, where Peers go out and talk to young people about the nature of your Lordships’ House. Those of us who are active in that scheme meet a wide cross-section of young people—and please let us call them young people, not children; it is very demeaning to call 16 and 17 year-olds children, even though legally they may be so. When you go into classrooms of 16 and 17 year-olds, the degree of maturity, thoughtfulness and balance evinced by those young people is fascinating. They frighten the living daylights out of me with their level of maturity. If the noble Viscount has not had that experience of meeting those very mature young people, I wonder whether he might sign up to the Lord Speaker’s scheme instantly.

Viscount Trenchard: I accept the noble Baroness’s point of view. I understand, and agree with her, that young people today show a much greater level of maturity than they did a decade or two ago. This is a gradual process, which I welcome, and it is right that from time to time we should consider what the age of majority should be. But we should consider it in the round, as it affects the age at which young people should be regarded as full citizens. I also agree with the noble Baroness that it is demeaning to refer to 16 and 17 year-olds as children, so I am with her on very much, but this is not the right time to make a piecemeal change.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: I would add a footnote to the important point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie. I am afraid that I disagree with the noble Viscount who has just spoken. Perhaps the Scots are getting more than their fair crack of the whip in this debate, so I will be brief. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, was right to say that it was the SNP which gave the Scottish 16 and 17 year-olds the vote in the independence referendum. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, was also right, as was the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, that the door was opened for them by the previous

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Government. But the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, is correct: the 16 and 17 year-olds in Scotland all know that it was Edinburgh which gave them the vote. If the next thing they hear is that London will not give them the vote in the next referendum, it is an amazingly strong court-card to hand to the SNP.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, I had not intended to intervene at this stage, but I hear people saying that we should not make piecemeal changes. The Committee should read Clause 2, to which we are debating an amendment, because it makes piecemeal changes. There are several lines which refer to allowing Peers to vote in this referendum—800 of us. A number of further lines then spend a lot of time on Gibraltar— all 22,000 of them—and then the Irish and Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar. I have been unable to discover how many there are of those, but I think there are probably around 100. These are piecemeal changes.

The problem was raised by a number of people at Second Reading that this referendum will be an exceptional vote. There is therefore a case for looking exceptionally at who should vote, whether it is in this set of amendments or in the following three groups, which we will be discussing later on tonight. The question is really: for this very important vote, which will affect the future of this country for the next 40 years, what are the appropriate changes that we wish to make in the electoral system? Clause 2 as it stands offers a number of changes. The question is what other changes we might wish to make for this vote.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I hate to say this, but noble Lords opposite have challenged my thinking on the Bill, as a general issue, but I agree that piecemeal reform in this area is not desirable. I share the noble Earl’s anxieties. Noble Lords, particularly the Liberal Democrats, consistently argue that someone under 18 is a child, but when it comes to an issue of this magnitude, they suddenly then become an adult.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom: My Lords, I do not intend to delay the Committee for very long, but on many of the amendments that came before we have been led by the Electoral Commission. I remind my noble friend the Minister that the Electoral Commission has serious reservations about these amendments for logistical reasons. Perhaps I may read out its final paragraph:

“While the date of the referendum remains unknown, it will be difficult for EROs, the Electoral Commission and campaigners to plan activities required to target and encourage any newly enfranchised electors to register to vote”.

It has made quite a serious comment and I would very much welcome my noble friend’s views on it.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I would like briefly to correct something I said earlier to the Committee. I think I implied that a party might see some political gain in these changes. That was quite incorrect and I am glad that the Committee pulled me up on it. I am sorry.

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Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, perhaps I might respond to the point made about the position in Scotland. I am really very surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, advancing a naked party-political reason for operating in this way on a matter such as the franchise. He basically said that it would be in the interests of unionists to alter the franchise in a way which may or may not be desirable, and which has not been considered in the round, because otherwise the SNP would be able to make political capital. That is not a reason for doing so.

Whether this is about 18 year-olds or 16 year-olds voting, I do not think that they would vote on whether or not we should remain in the European Union because their younger brothers or sisters were not given the vote. They are probably mature enough to reach a different view. I would also point out that the SNP did not win 95% of the seats and 50% of the vote in Scotland because of the concern amongst youngsters that they did not get the vote in the general election but had it in the referendum. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, is normally absolutely as sharp as a tack, but perhaps getting involved in this rough trade of politics is tainting him in a way which I would never have thought possible.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: I am disappointed to hear that the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, is shocked and disappointed. I merely made the point, which I will repeat in case it was not fully understood, that if this amendment is not accepted the perception in Scotland will be that, while Edinburgh gives the 16 and 17 year- olds the vote, London does not. It seems to me that that perception would be correct and could be damaging. When I say damaging, I confess that I am a unionist. I do not think that I am making a party-political point but I am a unionist, as is the noble Lord, and I hope that we can agree on something.

Baroness Morgan of Ely: My Lords, this has been a long debate and a fascinating discussion. It has been interesting to see that people on all sides of the Chamber have taken such an interest in this subject.

Last week, I went to see the film “Suffragette”, which was a stark reminder of how those women had to take on some of the kind of arguments that we have heard tonight. It is worth noting that, along with the fact that many of us have been very disappointed that young people’s participation in the general election, which has been low in the past, is declining. There are two questions we need to ask: is it a good idea and is it a good idea to do it in this Bill?

7.30 pm

The first issue is clear now. We have evidence not just from Scotland but also, according to the Electoral Reform Society, from Austria and Norway that indicates that 16-17 year-olds are more likely to vote than 18-24 year- olds and if you get them into the habit early they are more likely to continue to vote. Of course, there is not just one reason why young people decide to vote or decide not to vote but what we have here is the first generation of young people who have had citizenship classes, so we have been teaching them

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about this and suddenly we say, “No, not yet”. It is true that there are some in those citizenship classes who may be vulnerable and may not have been paying attention, but those are likely to be the minority. We need to look at the majority of the people who are going to be affected. About 1.5 million people could, if this went through, be eligible to vote and I am sure that they are watching very closely because they are the future voters in this country.

Researchers at LSE suggested that 16 and 17 year-olds are more likely to live with their family or be at school, which are major influences on the discovery of a person’s citizenship. That is one of the reasons why they think it is a good idea to start earlier. Once young people leave home, they are less likely to be registered in the place where they have found their new home. But the main reason the researchers give is that most people say that they stay away from electoral participation because they feel that political parties do not speak up for them. David Willetts drew attention at the weekend to the widening gap between relatively well-off pensioners and the young and the potentially devastating consequences that could have on the social contract that exists between the generations. Let us speak plainly; it makes more sense at the moment for political parties to address elderly voters rather than young voters as elderly voters are more likely to vote and make up a much larger share of the actual electorate. Those researchers at LSE are suggesting that we need to allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in order to expand that pool and to address the issues of young people.

Sixteen year-olds today live in a technical and digital world and understand the impact of globalisation on their lives. They know that they are going to be competing for jobs with people from across the planet. They understand that the company they will work for is as likely to be headquartered on the other side of the world as in their own community, and they understand the immense benefits which come with globalisation. They are exposed to different cultures from around the world. They know they can buy goods at the click of a mouse from any other country in the world. They are also aware of climate change and the need for global rules for markets. Whether they think on balance that the UK’s relationship with the EU is a good thing or a bad thing is a valid point and it is important that they have an opinion on this and an opportunity to express it. As has been said countless times, they are the people who are going to have to deal longest with the consequences of this decision.

There is the question of whether this is the right place for us to be considering this. There is a huge degree of inconsistency, as we have heard, and a piecemeal approach to the franchise system. It was the Government who opened this door. They knew very well when they gave that power to the Scottish nationalists in that referendum how they were going to use it. They opened the door also for the Welsh Assembly to do the same in Wales. We are brilliant at this piecemeal approach in the UK on all kinds of levels. This is just another example but it is an exceptional situation. As we have heard countless times, this is a situation which comes round once in a generation and 16 and 17 year- olds are part of that generation. In terms of consistency, when should they be allowed to vote? Are they allowed

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to have a cigarette? Are they allowed to have sex? Are they allowed to watch a porn movie? The whole thing is a dog’s breakfast. We know that and we cannot address all those issues in this Bill. Of course we need to be looking at that in a much broader context. But this is an exception; we know that this is their one opportunity in a generation.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I apologise for interrupting but something is niggling me. The noble Baroness says that the door was opened by the Government. From this Dispatch Box there were several assurances by the Government that in allowing the Scottish Government to decide they were in no way setting a precedent, and they made that absolutely clear. The door for all of this was opened by the Labour Party when it set up the Scottish Parliament and created devolution.

Baroness Morgan of Ely: It was right to give the Scottish people the autonomy to decide that 16 year-olds could vote, but the Government opened the door. They knew when they allowed the SNP to determine a lot of the rules of that referendum that that would be the consequence.

I want to turn now to the practicalities of implementation. There would undoubtedly be some issues with the practicalities of implementing this amendment. Obviously, the further away the referendum is, the easier it will be to enact. Of course, electoral registration officers would need to actively encourage and inform those newly eligible electors to vote and if a separate registration initiative for young people is required, then so be it. Let us make it happen. The current system already allows for 17 year-olds and many 16 year-olds to go on the register so we would not be starting from scratch. We could use social media to encourage this age group to inform themselves. They are experts at this and it is important that we understand that that would be an easy way to communicate with them.

It could be argued that it would be easier to implement this policy in England than it was in Scotland because, according to the Government’s own website, after 16 in England you have to stay in full-time education at college or school, start an apprenticeship or traineeship, work or be a volunteer. So we know where these people are. It is not quite as clear-cut in Scotland but in England, according to the Government’s website, we know where they are. So ultimately, whether this is able to occur or not is a question of political will. If the Government want this to happen they can overcome those technicalities in the way that Scotland did. The Government should also remember that when the Electoral Commission last consulted the public on whether 16 and 17 year-olds should be allowed to vote, 72% agreed that they should be given a voice. I urge the Minister to rethink on this issue and to be aware that the voters of the future are watching pretty closely.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): My Lords, this has been an excellent debate, with strong feelings expressed on all sides. I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I do not recite all the different amendments and what they purport to do because in effect they come down to one issue: whether

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or not we should allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in this referendum. The voting age for UK parliamentary elections is set at 18. This is the voting age which was used in the 1975 referendum on EEC membership and the 2011 alternative vote referendum and it is the voting age that is used in most democracies, including most member states in the EU. Only Austria in the EU allows voting at 16.

Let me deal with some of the issues that have been raised in the debate. Noble Lords have said that young people are or will be engaged and politically active. That may certainly be true of some 16 year-olds but equally it is true of some 14 year-olds and not true of some 50 year-olds, and political engagement or a lack of it cannot be enough justification for giving or denying the vote.

I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, was an early enthusiast for politics and elections and would have been capable of making a decision even before the age of 16. In his Second Reading speech, my noble friend Lord Ridley was far more modest about his capacity to make a decision at 17 or 18, as was my noble friend Lord Blencathra. Enthusiasm has been observed, particularly in the Scottish referendum, but I adhere to the point that it would be odd if enthusiasm of itself created the right to vote. The appetite for this change is in question, as it seems that young people are split on the issue. Recent YouGov polling indicates that although 56% of 16 year-olds want to be able to vote, only 42% of 17 year-olds and 36% of 18 year-olds want the voting age to be lowered.

Another point that has been raised is that people will live with the outcome longer and therefore it is important that younger voters are involved. Of course, 15 year-olds will have to live with the outcome even longer, even if the change proposed in the amendment were made. So will 14 year-olds and those even younger than that, but no one is proposing that we extend the vote to these age groups. I agree with my noble friend Lord Lawson that those who are older are concerned for their children and grandchildren and have an important desire to serve their interests.

The development of the adolescent brain is a complex area. It might be thought that to deny 16 year-olds is to be in some way a killjoy. I have noted the enthusiasm that several noble Lords have shown for the appetite of 16 year-olds to be engaged politically—many of those who have been involved in the Lord Speaker’s visits in particular; the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, spoke well about that, if I may say so. There is no one clear point at which we categorically say that a person becomes an adult. Research into brain development has yet to provide us with an obvious point at which we can distinguish between adolescents and adults. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, talked about difficulties in decision-making. Although Professor Laurence Steinberg argues that 16 year-olds are as capable as adults of making measured decisions, Dr Jay Giedd argues that the human brain does not reach full maturity until at least the mid-20s. Clearly, this is an issue that requires careful consideration, and deserves to be considered as part of a stand-alone debate.

Noble Lords have pointed to a number of things that a person can do when they turn 16 and suggested that this means that they ought to be able to vote.

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These claims do not bear much scrutiny. It is true that a person can marry at 16, but this important and life-changing decision cannot be made in England without parental consent. Of course, it is inappropriate for parental consent to be required to cast a vote. Similarly, although 16 and 17 year-olds can join the Army, parental consent is required, and it is not until a person turns 18 that they can be deployed in a conflict zone. My noble friend Lord Blencathra listed a number of things that 16 year-olds cannot do and, in those circumstances, I do not propose to list them.

There is no clear point at which a young person becomes an adult, but the restrictions that I have listed and were referred to by several other noble Lords acknowledge the simple fact that it is generally at 18, not 16, that society draws the line. It is at this point that we deem a person to be fully capable of making important decisions. We must draw a line somewhere. Of course there is always an element of arbitrariness: what about the person who is 17 years, 11 months—or, as some noble Lords would have it, 15 years, 11 months?

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: The Minister speaks of being capable of making decisions. Will he think carefully about that, and think about adults in the first stages of dementia?

Lord Faulks: I will indeed think carefully about that. As I conceded, a number of people, often through no fault of their own, may find it difficult to make decisions, but we are talking about those who, in old-fashioned parlance, used to be considered not to be capable of making a decision by reason of infancy. I entirely accept that to describe 16 year-olds as children may be inappropriate, but we should not assume simply because of the speed at which the world works, access to the internet or the capacity for travel, that this necessarily brings the wisdom to take decisions before the age of 18.

7.45 pm

Baroness Crawley: Does the noble Lord agree that given the proportion of young people who access further and higher education now—nearly 50%—those young people have over a number of years gained a great deal of maturity and capacity that might not have been the case for a similar cohort of young people in, say, the 1950s, when only 3.4% of them accessed higher and further education?

Lord Faulks: Of course, it was not until 1969, in the Representation of the People Act, that the age was reduced from 21 to 18. It is not the case that young people have changed that radically—notwithstanding the speed of communication, about which we have heard so much.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: On that point, what conclusion would he draw? It was reduced from 21 to 18. What is the magic about 18? It used to be 21. What about driving licences? What about the age of consent? Surely there is a wide range of ages; there is no one particular age at which it can be said that everything has now moved from childhood to adulthood across

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the board. The question is: in this referendum, which is likely to be generational, why should we cut these young people out?

Lord Faulks: It is not a question of cutting people out, it is a question of deciding, on all the evidence, with careful consideration of what we know about what most young people of a certain age can or cannot do, and coming to a consistent view. The view has been taken that the age should be 18. Why should we change it simply to deal with this particular opportunity to vote?

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Perhaps the noble Lord could help a little on this. He is advancing, as always, a highly sophisticated presentation of a totally negative point of view on giving the vote to 16 and 17 year-olds, but he is a member of a Government who held the door open to give Scots 16 and 17 year-olds the vote. Where were all those arguments then? Lying on the floor, I suppose.

Lord Faulks: Although it is tempting to go down that route and describe the cause or causes of the door being open—I was not in any position to argue that matter then—I think that we should return to the basic fact that, after careful consideration, 18 was considered the right age. Of course the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, is quite right: there is an element of arbitrariness about whatever age you choose. The question is: is it an age which has, by and large, received approval and consent? Yes it is. Of course that does not mean that this is the last word on the subject; people will differ about these things. There will be people who think that 21 was the right age and it should never have been lowered to 18.

Noble Lords will know that the power to determine the voting age for Scottish Parliament and local elections in Scotland was devolved to the Scottish Parliament, and the Scottish Parliament decided to lower the voting age to 16 for those elections. The Government have responded to requests to increase the powers of the devolved Administrations and will soon devolve similar powers to the Welsh Assembly.

Devolution, by its very nature, gives rise to the possibility of different laws applying in different parts of the United Kingdom. It does not mean that we must harmonise our differences. The fact that people may do certain things in Scotland aged 16—get married without parental consent, formally change their name, access their birth records if adopted—does not mean that the same rules must or should apply across the United Kingdom. One of the advantages of devolution is the capacity of different parts of the United Kingdom to make these choices.

More specifically, what about the precedent set by the Scottish independence referendum? The decision was made by the Scottish Parliament that whoever opened the door would decide on the franchise. It is right that decisions about the franchise for elections and referendums that affect the whole of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are made by this Parliament. As I said, decisions of the Scottish Parliament do not and should not prevent Parliament from taking a different decision.

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The Government do not think that this is the right vehicle, as my noble friend Lord Higgins pointed out so cogently. Any change to the entitlement to vote must to be considered properly and fully in specific legislation. I gave some examples where the law places restrictions on 16 and 17 year-olds. Any proposal to lower the voting age must be carefully examined in that overall context.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I hear what the Minister says; indeed, in another place, the Foreign Secretary himself said that this was an argument for another day. Could the Minister assist me by saying whether, over the course of this Parliament—in the next four or five years—the Government might consider a change to the franchise?

Lord Faulks: I am not privy to all the Government’s thinking, but, no, I do not understand that that is on the horizon. Any proposal must be examined carefully: we cannot change the voting age and simply assume that it will have no implications for other areas where our law and our society treat 16 and 17 year-olds differently from their 18 year-old counterparts.

Noble Lords will wish to reflect on how this change would look to the public. I have no idea how 16 and 17 year-olds—were they to be given the vote—would vote. A number of people might guess and they might well be wrong. The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, said, in an exchange with my noble friend Lord Tebbit, that he thought that 16 and 17 year-olds were more likely to use their vote better than my noble friend Lord Tebbit. I am not quite sure what that said. Nor do I know how 18 and 19 year-olds are likely to vote. It is possible that a change in the franchise of such a radical nature—this is a radical change—will be perceived, rightly or wrongly, as some sort of attempt to affect the result of the referendum. We are anxious as a Government that, whatever the result of the referendum, the legitimacy of the process cannot be questioned. The safest way of doing that is to stick to the Westminster franchise and leave the vote at 18.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, who is not currently in his place, made a valiant attempt to say that we have opened the door by allowing Peers to vote or by the minor adjustment in Gibraltar. We are talking about millions; we are talking about a radical change. It is a change that not only would be radical, but would have the potential to affect timing. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Hamilton for referring to the report of the Electoral Commission. Quite rightly, the commission did not offer a view on 16 and 17 year-olds, but it did, in addition to the paragraph to which he referred, say:

“The Commission’s view is that any changes to the franchise for the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union should be clear in sufficient time to enable all those who are eligible, to register and participate in the referendum”.

The noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, said, “Well, we could accelerate the process having regard to the fact that so many young people are aware of social media and could be brought up to speed with the issues”. However, as I understood the debate yesterday about registration, it was so important that we did not rush

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the procedure because people might be left off. It was far too important a matter to in any way accelerate. Therefore, if it affects the timing, which I understand to be very important in a number of contexts, that is a relevant factor. However, the crucial argument is that this is not an appropriate moment to make that change. In all those circumstances, I ask noble Lords not to press their amendments.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Could I ask a hypothetical question? I preface it by saying that I understand that the “leave” campaign wants to support this amendment. That might surprise some people: it surprised me. How firm are the Government in opposing this amendment? Let us suppose, for example, that the amendment is carried on Report and is sent back to the House of Commons, which already rejected this proposal. If it comes back to the House of Lords, and we insist on the amendment—after all, Monday indicated that this House is not only roaring; it is using its teeth as well—the Parliament Act would apply. What then would happen to this Bill? How long would it be delayed and what effect would that have on the timetable?

Lord Faulks: It is very tempting to hypothesise in the face of that invitation, but I am afraid it is an invitation that I am going to decline.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: I congratulate the Minister on an absolutely brilliant speech, of the kind that I used to try to write—a mandarin speech. All the phrases were there: “a dangerous precedent”; “not the right time”, and “unforeseen consequences”. When all failed at the Treasury, I used to resort to, “beyond the ambit of the vote”, which nobody understood, not even me. It was brilliant, but one thing that I thought was missing was the answer to the point made by my noble friend Lord Hannay, that we were not trying to alter the arrangements for elections. We were talking only of a one-off referendum. That seems to be quite a strong point. Will the Minister touch on that?

Lord Faulks: Of course, the noble Lord will recall that we had a referendum relatively recently, in 2011, about a change in the voting system—to introduce the alternative vote—which was on the Westminster model. The argument was very much, “Well, this is inevitable” or “This is a slippery slope”, to use the expression of the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, and that, by accepting the validity of the argument on the European referendum, it must follow, as night follows day, that we would then proceed to change the Westminster franchise. By accepting that argument, we would be reversing into an inevitable change in the Westminster franchise. There might or might not be an argument for doing that, but that is an argument that ought to take place in the fullness of time, with all available evidence, once all the matters that we have gone into and wanted to consider were available.

Lord Tyler: My Lords, this has been a very good debate. I do not intend to detain the House for long because, frankly, there will be a further opportunity to debate these issues. I just want to deal with one or two factual points. The noble Lord, Lord Balfe, said that the franchise is not being extended in this Bill. It is

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being extended, as my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire said, and, indeed, there will be further debates about extending the franchise. I understand that it is Conservative policy to extend the franchise to UK citizens resident in the EU beyond the 15-year limit, so it will be very interesting to hear what is said about that.

The other issue, which is an important one, is about practicalities, of which the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, spoke. I talked to the Electoral Commission and it is clear that it wants to have the longest possible lead time, so the sooner the Government decide to accept this amendment the better from the point of view of the commission. I am sure that they will do it eventually. MPs keep telling me that they will, so it is just a question of not leaving it too long. It is also true that we have the hard evidence of what happened in Scotland. The extension of the franchise to 16 and 17 year-olds proceeded remarkably easily, so there is no technical difficulty there.

I am intrigued to hear constant references to the difficulties of piecemeal changes to our constitution. The Government are about to change the relationship between the two Houses, if they can get away with it. That is what they are doing today. If that is not a constitutional change, what is? Then, what about EVEL—English Votes for English Laws? That is piecemeal. I thought that the Conservatives were actually in favour of incremental changes to our constitution. My study of history was that that was what Disraeli was all about—and very clever he was at it. So it is not an appropriate argument in this case to say that we cannot do this because it is not the ripe time—the doctrine of ripe time. That is what our ancestors in this very House argued right through the 19th century. I shall come back to that in a moment.

8 pm

I thought that the most important issue was the one referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. There is an issue—I accept it—about impressionable young people. But frankly, as many other noble Lords said, what about impressionable old people? Of course, we do not know whether everybody will want to be registered in this age group, or everybody want a vote, or that they will all be mature and sensible, but that is true of every cohort. But we know that the 16 to 17 year-old cohort has become more mature and better informed—and it has been tested, as my noble friend Lord Taverne pointed out. Yes, it was theoretical; even the excellent report of the British Council Youth Select Committee, which took hard evidence on this issue to which the noble Earl referred, and found no real reason to see a major risk in this case, was based on theoretical evidence. But the hard evidence in Scotland was that people in this age group did not in any way feel that they were being persuaded in a particular direction. They were given some responsibility and were more responsible. That is the experience of those of us who deal with people in this age group.

In the end, it comes back to the essential point that the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, put to the House this evening. It is a matter of balance and judgment. The Minister says that it is all a question of how developed the human brain is, but I shall not follow him in that

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direction. With many older age groups, I have found the extent to which their human brain manages to deal with issues of great political complexity, and I do not think that we can start having a sort of highway code test for whether people can or cannot be mature, sensible or well-balanced enough to be able to take a decision.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I may be having a problem with my brain, because I do not understand where the noble Lord is coming from. He has spent the last year arguing that constitutional change should not be made in a piecemeal way and that we need to have a constitutional convention to look at these things in the round. We have spent this evening listening to people opening doors—saying that we opened the door to the Scottish changes in the franchise, when the Government said that it would not open the door. Surely, the noble Lord needs to work out whether he believes that these things should be looked at in the round. He has also argued that this is a one-off and will not have further implications. I am completely confused as to how he can maintain two opposing positions at the same time. One is tempted, is one not, when he made his slip, to conclude that the real reason he wants these changes is that it will help him to get the result that he wants?

Lord Tyler: My Lords, the Bill sets out a timetable, and we had some discussion on that earlier this evening. That is the timetable with which we are faced in your Lordships’ House; we have a Bill, and we are going to have a referendum. I agree with the noble Lord that it would have been preferable some years ago if we had had the opportunity to look at some of these issues in the round, but we did not, and we have not done so, and the present Government are still setting their face firmly against a constitutional convention. Unless he is prepared to delay a referendum for another three, four or five years, I am afraid that we must address what is on the Marshalled List today, which gives us an opportunity to decide what is to be the franchise for one very specific question. That is what it is all about.

I go back to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs. It may well be that there are Members of your Lordships’ House who think that this is not the right moment to move, but I think that we have an excellent precedent on this sort of issue, when the decision that will be taken has such ramifications and implications for so long. In that context, we should make progress in that direction. However, I accept that this may not be technically the most robust amendment to achieve that change, and I certainly want to make sure that we get cross-House support from Cross-Benchers, Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats for the amendment, to demonstrate how wide the support now is. More support has been demonstrated today, and I hope that we can do that. In that context, it is obviously right that for this Bill and on this occasion we make sure that the amendment is absolutely technically perfect. So in that circumstance, to make sure that we can demonstrate that breadth of support, for the time being I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 8 withdrawn.

Amendment 9 not moved.

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8.06 pm

Sitting suspended until not before 8.36 pm.

8.36 pm

Amendment 10

Moved by Lord Hannay of Chiswick

10: Clause 2, page 2, line 7, after “at” insert—

“(i) ”

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, the purpose of this amendment, which is relatively incomprehensible if you look at it, and others in the same group is to provide that the electorate for the referendum should include EU citizens resident in the United Kingdom, the sort of electorate who vote in local elections in this country and in European parliamentary elections. It has an innovation on that, which is designed to meet the concerns of those who feel that it would be wrong for European Union citizens living in this country for a very short time to have the vote, as they would under the arrangements for local and European parliamentary elections. Therefore, it requires five years’ residence here before EU citizens could vote in the referendum.

This is not an attempt to change the franchise for a parliamentary election in this country. I am sure that the Minister will tell us about how this is unprecedented in any other member state and so on. One of the points about precedents which the noble Lord missed when he was telling us about how few countries have the vote for 16 and 17 year-olds is that no other member state of the European Union has ever held a referendum to leave the European Union. When they have held referendums or their parliamentary elections, they were about things infinitely less consequential for the future of the country than this vote will be for us, so I do not think that any of those analogies are particularly helpful but, in any case, I insist that there is not the slightest attempt here to create a precedent for our parliamentary elections. This is purely and simply for this referendum.

What is the basis for it? It is quite simple: if you are a European Union citizen and you have lived here for five years, you are almost certainly employed and you are paying taxes, so you are fulfilling all the “no taxation without representation” basic criteria. You are also someone whose status in this country will be radically affected by the outcome of the referendum because all sorts of rights that you enjoy now under the European treaties will be removed if we vote to leave and negotiate under Article 50 of the treaty to withdraw. These people would be critically affected by this decision and, to my mind, to not give them the vote on it would be a considerable inequity because it could affect them and their children, and if they have been here for five years many of them are probably going to be here for even longer. The case for giving them a vote is compelling and that is why I and other noble Lords have put down these amendments. Since the night is wearing on I will not weary anyone with a longer speech than that explanation and I hope very much that there will be—as there has been in the signatories to this amendment—cross-party and no-party support for an approach of this sort. I beg to move.

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Lord Green of Deddington (CB): My Lords, I suggest that there are two rather key points that the noble Lord has not addressed. One is that no other country in the European Union grants a vote in a referendum to foreign citizens, even EU citizens. The fact that most other referenda are on rather smaller issues strengthens the case against giving a vote to EU citizens in Britain on an issue of major importance. Secondly, on a point of fact, the number of EU citizens of voting age in this country is of the order of 2.7 million. The noble Lord has taken out those who have been here less than five years, so you are talking about 1.9 million people. These estimates are based on the Labour Force Survey, so they are not precise but you are talking about the order of 2 million voters. The likelihood surely is—particularly on the arguments the noble Lord has made—that these people will vote for the UK to stay in the European Union. What is going to be the impact on the public of knowing that this change has been made for this purpose? It will be seen as an attempt to swing the vote in favour of staying in the Union with the use of foreign votes.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: We are in a rather peculiar situation. The noble Lord intervened in my speech and is now making a speech all of his own.

Lord Green of Deddington: No, I have finished.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Okay, I think the noble Lord was intervening in my speech and, if he had listened carefully to what I said, he would have heard that I most particularly noted that the parallels with other members are not very apt because nobody has ever voted to leave the European Union—nobody has ever voted in a referendum whose outcome, if it went in favour of leaving, would deprive a large number of people in the country of their rights under EU law. I covered that. I know that earlier in this debate we forswore use of words such as xenophobia but I have to say that some of the arguments he advanced in his brief intervention were, let us say, rather close to the line.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I fully support the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and, indeed, I put my name to one of the amendments. I will just add two points. I believe that it is right to enable these citizens of other member states to have a vote in this referendum precisely because their very being in this country is linked to membership of the European Union. If it were not for the freedom of movement within the European Union they would not be working here, contributing to our economy and helping build our society. Therefore, it is right that they have a vote. I also ask the Minister: in his view, what would happen to these citizens if we were to leave the European Union? Would they have to leave? One does not know. We have to have answers to these questions at some stage before we progress much further along the referendum line. If they did have to leave, this country would miss out a great deal by losing their contribution to our society and, most especially, their contribution to our economy. We are all familiar with the phrase “no taxation without representation”; they are paying taxes and therefore they should be enabled to vote.

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8.45 pm

Lord Willoughby de Broke (UKIP): My Lords, I do not think that this amendment has any merit whatever. As the noble Lord on the Cross Benches said, in no other country do foreign nationals have a right to vote at all—ever.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: The noble Lord does not want us to be associated with any other country, so if we were different would that not please him?

Lord Willoughby de Broke: I do not see the point of that intervention at all. I was going to say that, because there is no reciprocity, there is no reason for us to give European citizens the vote in what is a purely national matter, in spite of what the noble Baroness said. She said herself that we do not know what is going to happen with European citizens if and when we vote to leave. People live here because they like living here, not because we are a member of the EU, so that will not change at all.

Lord Liddle: One reason why so many EU citizens who have not become British nationals as a result of marrying British people live here is that we are a member of the EU and they feel that they are treated on the same basis as British citizens. You are dividing people who see themselves as British residents and have committed their lives to this country, and you are wrong.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: I am so sorry if I am wrong.

Earl Attlee: My Lords—

Lord Willoughby de Broke: Perhaps I may just finish my speech. The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, said that foreign citizens come here because we are in the EU. That is not the case at all. A lot of them, including the French, come here precisely because it is a different country. They do not come here because we are in the EU. Actually, in one sense they are leaving the EU. They are leaving their high-tax, lower-employment and failing economy. That is why they come here and that is not going to change. However, that does not alter the fact that it is completely wrong to enfranchise foreign nationals to vote in a British election. It has never happened before. I was in France for the 2005 constitutional election, which the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, will remember. I would have loved to have voted with the French to vote down the constitution but I had to cheer from the side-lines when they did. I was not allowed to vote. I see no reason whatever for agreeing to this amendment. People can live here and, if they want to vote, they can take British nationality.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I remind the Committee that the Companion advises against the use of the word “you”.

Lord Liddle: I am sure that the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, is correct on these points and therefore I shall follow his advice as best I can.

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With regard to all these amendments, if we were talking about the situation in the 1970s when we were joining the European Union, I would have said unequivocally, “That is a decision for British citizens”. But we made the decision to join a Community—and it is a Community—in which many British citizens have gone to live in other countries and many European citizens have come to live here. People have moved because they have felt that they will be treated on a very fair and equal basis as members of the European Union.

Now, the structural change that our membership of the EU has brought about means that this is not like any other election. It is not a national election or a national referendum on a matter specific to our country; it is about our future in the European Union and it affects everyone—British citizens living in the European Union and European citizens living here.

I accept that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has a point about a residency requirement. However, I know many people who have married people from EU member states who are not British citizens and the idea that their future is going to be decided without them having a say over it is a monstrous injustice.

Viscount Ridley (Con): I invite the noble Lord to step behind a Rawlsian veil of ignorance and imagine that there are 1.8 million people in this country who we are pretty sure are going to vote overwhelmingly to leave the European Union. Would he still express the same passionate enthusiasm for enfranchising them?

Lord Liddle: One of the miracles of the European Union is that people have been free to move. Surely they have some right to vote. It should not be the case that the British citizens who have stayed here are the only people who can vote in a referendum.

Lord Green of Deddington: My Lords, in that case, how is it that no other European country allows foreign citizens to vote in their referenda?

Lord Liddle: Because this is a referendum about leaving the European Union. I am not suggesting that this become the electorate in a British general election or on any other matter. However, this referendum is about the rationale for why these people are here.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom: My Lords, we have been discussing virtually all day how we are going to try to make this referendum fair. We want to keep the playing field as level as we possibly can. Enfranchising 1.9 million people of European nationality is a blatant opportunity to try to swing the vote in favour of staying in the EU. Of course, so much is going wrong for all these people who want us to stay in the EU. Let us face it: the EU is imploding as we watch and one crisis follows another. It is going to be quite tricky for anybody who wants us to stay in the EU to win this referendum. Therefore, I agree that those people who do want to stay in have got to try every trick in the book to try to swing it in their direction. However, let us see this for what it is: this is a referendum for the British people to decide

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whether or not they want to stay in the EU. This is not a decision for foreigners who happen to be living in this country.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: The noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, and the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, before him, used the argument of whether we would all be supporting this if these people were all going to vote no. I am afraid that his question reveals his own motive—to stop these people getting the vote just because they might vote yes.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom: I cannot believe that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, is actually putting this amendment forward because he has no intention to increase the franchise of people who will vote for his position, which is to stay in the EU. Come on—let us see this for what it is: this is trying to slant things rapidly in the direction of those who want us to stay in the EU. It is absolutely blatantly obvious that that is what it is all about. For anybody to pretend anything different is absolutely ridiculous.

Baroness Smith of Newnham: My Lords, like the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, I have also put my name to the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. I fundamentally believe it is right that EU nationals who are living and working in the UK and who have been here for a significant time, paying their taxes, ought to be enfranchised, irrespective of how they might vote. If I were speaking from behind a Rawlsian veil of ignorance, I would still say that they should have a right to vote. They have come here thanks to EU free movement rights, just as millions of British taxpayers have moved to other parts of the European Union—they may have retired there or be working there thanks to the free movement of people and 40 years of membership of the European Union. They will all vote in different ways. This is not a free-for-all to say that any EU national who just happens to have pitched up here should be entitled to vote. However, people who have committed to being here but have not sought British citizenship, precisely because, as the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, said, they have understood that they have rights as EU citizens, should be enfranchised.

It should not be a free-for-all. I do not quite believe that the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, is the right thing to do. However, enfranchising people who have a great stake in the future of Britain in Europe is important, whether they are British nationals or not. Commonwealth citizens resident in the UK will be enfranchised, so it seems invidious that EU nationals are not. This is not about skewing the franchise but about giving people with a genuine interest the opportunity to have a say.

Lord Davies of Stamford: My Lords, I think that it is completely improper for anyone, anywhere, at any time, to make an assumption about how a fellow citizen or group of fellow citizens will cast their votes. It is particularly improper for us to do it here, where we are legislating on the franchise for a very important vote, and discussing the general principles on which the franchise should be based for referenda and elections in this country. So I shall not go down that road at all.

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I take my position on the basis of first principles. This involves the same first principle from which I argued on the last group of amendments—the central principle of coherence. At present the regime is utterly incoherent. We face the prospect of a referendum which, if we make no changes in the course of these debates in Parliament, will result in citizens of three members of the European Union present in this country having the vote, and not the rest. That is a thoroughly anomalous position. One is the Republic of Ireland, which is said to be a special case because of our historical relationship. The other two are Malta and Cyprus. They are said to be a special case because they are members of the Commonwealth.

What is so special about the Commonwealth? The Commonwealth is a group of countries with which we have had a happy historical relationship and a good relationship at present; it is something of a club. But surely we have at least that degree of close intimate relations and common interest—and probably far more in the way of common interest and connections—with the other members of the European Union. It seems utterly anomalous not to extend the vote to citizens of other EU countries who happen to be resident in this country.

Perhaps I could forestall the noble Lord, Lord Green, intervening to say that other EU countries do not give our citizens resident there the vote in their referenda, by saying that—apart from the issue of the different types of referendum we have already touched on—members of the Commonwealth do not do that either. I cannot go and vote in India or Australia if I become a resident of one of those two countries—unless, of course, I take nationality of one of them, and that is a different matter altogether. There is a real anomaly here.

I gather that Fiji has just rejoined the Commonwealth. Are we seriously saying that we have closer connections with Fiji than we have with, say, France, or that we should make more favourable arrangements for Fiji’s citizens to take part in British elections than we should for people from France? What an extraordinary notion.

Lord Green of Deddington: The noble Lord will be aware that I have an amendment in the next group that would deal with his problem.

Lord Davies of Stamford: If it deals with my problem in a satisfactory way I may support it. I look forward to the noble Lord introducing it in due course.

Mozambique is also a member of the Commonwealth. Let me take that as an example. Do we have especially close relationships with the people and the state of Mozambique? Can it be said that we share the fate of Mozambique to a greater extent than that of most other countries? Do we have common interests that need to be debated and considered together? Hardly so. Is Mozambique more important to this country than, say, the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark or other friendly countries very close to our shores? It is an extraordinary insult to those countries to suggest that that might be so.

The Spanish ambassador told me the other day that there are 15 million visits by British citizens to Spain every year. Some people go more than once, of course,

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but that is still an extraordinary number. It shows the degree of human interchange—and of course, behind that there is a great deal of economic interchange—that we have with our fellow members of the EU. We all face similar problems and we will all be impacted by a British withdrawal from the EU, if that takes place. So there is an immense logic in extending the franchise on this occasion to EU citizens resident here. There is no logic whatever in extending that franchise to Commonwealth citizens but not to EU citizens. I repeat that in terms of reciprocity, the position is exactly the same, so that argument cannot be used. Again, we need some clear coherence here—some way of justifying the choices we make objectively. Otherwise we will lose legitimacy, and I totally agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, that we need that.

9 pm

Lord Blencathra: It may be that 15 million people go to Spain every year but none of them gets the right to vote in its elections.

I am probably more naive than my noble friend Lord Hamilton, but maybe not quite simple. I am not suggesting this is a deliberate ploy to stack the electoral register to help the stay-in, BSE campaign. That may not be the intention but there is enormous cynicism out there in the country about politics, politicians and a fear that we will somehow, as politicians, stack things so that we stay in. That is why there is concern about whether Europe will spend money on the campaign and whether Ministers and others will use their position to campaign for an in vote?

They may not, and there are purdah rules to stop it, but the view in the country is a rather cynical one that politicians cannot be trusted to have a proper, fair electoral referendum. If there is a majority of 10 million either way it will not matter, but if the majority to stay in or to leave is 1 million or 1.5 million, and 1.5 million EU citizens have voted, it will not take much to see that the British public will say it was rigged, they “woz robbed”, and the whole election result was unfair.

I repeat, as many others have said, that no other EU country permits non-nationals to vote. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, who is expert in these matters, tried to draw a distinction between this referendum, which could result in Britain leaving, and other national referenda on less important issues. I beg to differ on a couple of occasions. When the Danes voted against Maastricht it was a nuclear bomb under the EU at that point. The Danes were told to think again and keep voting until they came up with the result that the EU wanted. That is me being cynical on this occasion. If Denmark had not voted again—

Lord Davies of Stamford: Will the noble Lord address the point that I made in my intervention a moment ago? Although it is true, as he says, that no other EU country grants the right to British citizens who are resident there to vote, it is also true of Commonwealth countries. No Commonwealth country grants British citizens who are resident in their country the right to vote, so why does he justify the anomaly that we are extending under the regime that he is defending—the right to vote in this referendum to Commonwealth citizens but not to citizens of fellow EU member states?

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Lord Blencathra: The noble Lord is little premature. If he is still here in half an hour, he may hear my speech supporting the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, as he seeks to remove Commonwealth and Irish citizens from the register. I hope that the noble Lord will be here to support that amendment.

I was concluding by saying that the vote on Maastricht would have been a devastating change to the EU. I had no idea what the consequences would be. Denmark would not have been thrown out, of course, although I heard one EU commissioner at the time saying that it would be if it did not comply. That noble Lord is no longer with us.

When the Irish voted against Lisbon, again that was mega bomb under the EU and the Irish again had to vote until it came up with the right conclusions. I speculate, if Ireland had not voted again on the Lisbon treaty, would the treaty have gone ahead or would Ireland have been put into a second-class category? I do not know but it was a mega decision that Ireland and Denmark took, so I do not think that we can say that this referendum that we are having in Britain is more important than some other European referenda.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: This situation is completely different. In the case of the Danish and Irish referendums, had those negative results been upheld, the only consequence would be that a treaty called Maastricht or Lisbon would not have come into force. Nobody would have had any rights, privileges or advantages removed from them. The whole of the European Union would merely have stayed where it was.

The noble Lord is quite right in saying that Denmark and Ireland would not have been chucked out. At that time there was no machinery to do that. There was not even a withdraw clause, but it would not have happened. The point is very simple. The result would have simply been—as was the case in the vote on the constitutional treaty in France and the Netherlands—to negate something that might have come into effect had it been ratified. This is completely different. Here, you are taking away various important rights and privileges that European citizens here have as a result of our membership of the European Union. You are depriving them of those things. It is honestly not like for like.

Lord Blencathra: I do not accept that if there is a decision to leave we will be taking away some fundamental rights from European citizens who are living in this country and that they should therefore have a right to vote in the referendum to protect those rights. On Report we may have a list of what those rights may be. I can understand the noble Lord’s point that there is a difference in quality or perhaps in quantity in these referenda, but I do not accept that the referenda in Denmark and Ireland were of a vastly different magnitude to this one. We could not vote in the Danish referendum and rightly so. I did not want the right to vote in the Danish and Irish referenda, and I do not see how this referendum is so different that other non-British nationals should have the right to vote in it.

Baroness Smith of Newnham: There are two fundamental differences. One is in terms of ratification of a treaty. Each member state gets to ratify the treaty

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according to its own rules, be that by referendum or through Parliament. In this case we are talking about the rights of people who are resident here. There are different immigration rights for EU nationals versus third-country nationals. People who live and work here as EU nationals on the basis of free movement are surely in a different situation from other residents of the UK. What will employers be required to do if Britain leaves the European Union? Are EU nationals going to be allowed to work here?

Lord Blencathra: If Britain votes to leave, a whole range of things would need to be decided and negotiated. No one is suggesting that on the day or within a couple of years of Britain voting to leave, all EU nationals working here would be slung out and not allowed to work. A British Government would make a determination by looking at each case of employment and refugee status—at a range of issues that could be decided on individually. It is not right to say that we are back at square one and that if we vote to leave, all the rules related to other people working in this country go back to 1973.

Lord Liddle: If decisions are taken individually, that implies that some EU nationals will be thrown out. Is it the Government’s position that if we vote to leave the EU, some EU nationals may be thrown out?

Lord Blencathra: I do not want to get totally bogged down in this argument. I was asked a hypothetical question: what would happen to those people if we voted to leave? I was given a hypothetical answer: it would be up the Government of the day to decide the rules on employment in this country for people from any other country. I was not suggesting that the Government would throw people out. They may decide unilaterally that all 1.8 million should stay and maybe we should add a couple of million more. It is a totally hypothetical issue but it does not detract from the argument that no other country allows non-nationals to vote in important national referenda. We should follow that example.

Lord Liddle: It is not a totally hypothetical issue. If you listened to Mrs May’s speech at the Conservative Party speech, you might have thought that there was a certain desire to throw out people who were not British citizens. There is a real question: what is the future for EU nationals in this country if we vote to leave? If the Government are not prepared to give an honest answer, of course people are going to demand a right to vote in this referendum.

Viscount Ridley: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, who I know is trying to get in, but I want to add a quick postscript to my noble friend Lord Blencathra’s point about fairness. As I said at Second Reading, we must get this referendum so fair that after it is over the argument is over—we forget it, we shut up about it. The further we divert in all these directions from the Westminster franchise, the more likely we are to end up in the situation that he and the noble Lord, Lord Green, described, in which the balance

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of judgment in the referendum comes down to one small group of EU nationals, for example, and the argument does not go away.

Lord Liddle: Does the noble Viscount accept that the argument will be over for EU nationals if we vote to leave?

Viscount Ridley: If we vote to leave that argument will continue, but as my noble friend Lord Blencathra said, that is when we will deal with it.

Lord Blencathra: My Lords, I agree entirely with my noble friend. I could not say it better myself so I shall shut up and conclude my remarks.

Lord Shipley (LD): My Lords, I said at Second Reading that there was a very important principle at stake in this issue: that those who will be directly and personally affected by the outcome should be entitled to a say in the decision. I stick by that principle because it is exceedingly important.

I am grateful to the noble Lords who tabled Amendment 13, which defines the five-year rule, because I had wondered whether it was justified for shorter-term or seasonal workers to have the right to vote. In the Scottish referendum people who had lived in Scotland for less than five years had the right to vote because the local government franchise and electoral roll were used. I am unaware of any trouble or problems caused by the fact that EU residents living in Scotland had the right to vote.

The compromise proposed in Amendment 13 is entirely reasonable. It gives the franchise to those who can demonstrate a longer-term residency commitment to the UK. I assume that it means five continuous calendar years, as opposed to any five calendar years, but on that basis—and the fact that people will have to prove residency for five years, which in itself might be a complicated task for some—it seems entirely reasonable.

I noticed that in the contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, we had the accusation that no other country does this and that we therefore should not. Of course, nothing ever changes if you always have to abide by what other people do. As we heard, Austria permits votes at the age of 16. Somebody took the lead there. It seems to me that there is nothing wrong with the United Kingdom deciding to make its own decision about how it wishes to conduct a referendum.

Lord Green of Deddington: I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord, but does he accept that mine was a point of fact, not an accusation?

Lord Shipley: I accept that it is a point of fact, although I am very uncertain about the number of voters that the noble Lord came up with. I am not sure that that base can be proven accurate.

Lord Green of Deddington: I made it clear to noble Lords that that calculation was based on the Labour Force Survey, which as they will know is a survey and

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is therefore subject to some variation. However, when the noble Lord talks about 1.9 million he is talking about a lot of people who have been resident here for five years.

Lord Shipley: The figures would clearly have to be checked, but people will have to register. They will have to demonstrate that they have a legal right to register. Then, of course, they will have to vote. We may have to do some further work on this prior to Report, but we need to examine those numbers very carefully indeed.

I think the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Epsom, said that this will be a referendum for British people. I agree that it has to be a referendum for British people, notwithstanding this set of amendments, but I wonder whether he includes those who have lived abroad for more than 15 years. They are British people and British passport holders and a very large number will be denied a vote. We will come on to that in a further group of amendments.

In conclusion, this is an opportunity for those who have demonstrated that they have a commitment to contributing to the life and economy of the United Kingdom to be trusted with a vote about the future of the United Kingdom in the European Union. I believe that it is right to have a policy for those who have lived here for five calendar years. It is appropriate because it demonstrates our confidence in those who are not British nationals.

9.15 pm

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, I signed the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. I am eager that we all pay attention to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke. After all, his title goes back to 1491. If my memory serves me right, it was on 7 November that year, that Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor, and King Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary, signed the Peace of Pressburg, ending the Austro-Hungarian war. Later that year, on 6 December, Charles VIII of France married Anne of Brittany and Brittany was incorporated into France. Even in 1491, the European Union was beginning to form. No doubt the very first Baron Willoughby de Broke did not like it very much either. Nothing changes in the barony of Willoughby de Broke but the rest of us have to live in the modern world—not in 1491 but in 2015.

I do not want to repeat the arguments that have been put forward but to underline that I agree with them. I am very fond of the Commonwealth and am on the executive committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and I ask, as president of the Caribbean Council, what the logic is in extending the vote to citizens of Mozambique but not to citizens of France. It seems crazy. I agree with what has been said.

Secondly, there is the issue of no taxation without representation. We have many European Union citizens in the United Kingdom, who contribute so much to our economy—it is estimated at £20 billion between 2001 and 2011. London is, I think, the fourth largest French city. We have many French people living here,

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contributing to our economy, and making London such a powerful and successful place, yet we are saying to them that they are not going to get a say in a referendum which will affect their future. It just seems crazy.

The last argument I want to put forward is the crunch argument. European Union citizens already vote in local elections. As was said earlier, they voted in the Scottish referendum. Most important of all, they vote to choose their Member of the European Parliament. If they are allowed to choose the person who represents them there, it is manifestly obvious they should also be given a vote in the referendum which decides whether we continue to be members of the European Union and continue to send Members to the European Parliament. That is the right thing to do.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: Will the noble Lord deal with the point that was made by my noble friend Lord Ridley? He is right that people from eastern European countries living in Scotland were able to vote in the referendum. Certainly, looking at the broadcasts at the time, many of them voted for independence—partly as a result of their own experience; they saw it as about liberation and freedom. If the referendum result had been very close and gone the other way and people were able to demonstrate that it had been turned by the votes of people who had come from Europe, does the noble Lord not think we might have had a problem?

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: No, I do not. No one made that point in the run-up to the referendum. No one said that they would not accept the result, even if it was close, because European citizens living in Scotland were voting in it. That was not an issue. I went round a lot of Scotland during the referendum and no one ever raised that as an issue with me.

As a postscript, I find the suggestion just referred to that, because no other countries have done this, we should not, quite depressing. We have pioneered so many things in the United Kingdom. We have invented and started so much. Why can we not also be pioneers in this? I hope the Government will give it serious consideration.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I have a probing amendment in this group. Should the House decide at a later stage to enfranchise the group we have just been talking about, or the UK citizens we will be discussing in Amendment 14, the purpose of my amendment is to find out what work would need to be done by the Government and what preparations they would need to make in order to make that happen.

Lord Wigley: My Lords, I had not intended to speak in this debate but there is one dimension that perhaps I can bring to the debate that few others could.

In Wales, perhaps in Scotland as well, apart from constitutional nationalism there is always a fringe of more extreme nationalism and there are fringes that impinge on racism. It is something that throughout my political career I have tried to stand against. I have

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made the point time after time, ad nauseam, that all people living in Wales, whatever their language, colour or creed, are full and equal citizens of Wales. It is a concept of civic involvement in the community in which they live. These amendments touch upon this. If we are going to go down the road of starting to differentiate on the basis of some concept of nationality as opposed to citizenship, we could be in very serious trouble indeed.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, perhaps I might briefly raise the question of what sort of numbers we are talking about. The noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, suggested that we had 2.7 million. I have to say that sounds high.

I spent some time in the EU balance of competences review trying to discover the best estimates of the numbers of citizens from other EU countries in Britain and of British citizens in other EU states. I am well aware that it is very difficult to get the numbers but the best estimates we came up with, with the help of the Home Office, the FCO and the DWP, were 2.2 million British citizens living in other EU member states and 2.4 million EU citizens from other states living here. If we then ask how many of them have been living here for five years and how many are entitled to vote, we probably come down to something in the order of 1.5 million to 1.75 million on the five-year limit. I suspect a very substantial number of those will be of western European origin, including the many people who are in mixed marriages—British-French, British-German, British-Dutch, whatever it may be. Those are the sorts of figures.

It would help, if we are going to return to this on Report, if the Minister could manage to discover between now and then how many citizens of other EU member states are currently on the British electoral register. That figure must be obtainable. I accept that the estimate of how many there are in total in this country is very difficult to pin down but that other figure at least we must be able to have.

Lord Green of Deddington: My Lords, there is not much between us. The noble Lord said 1.75 million; I said 1.9 million.

Lord Collins of Highbury: My Lords, I am tempted to stray on to the next group, which the noble Lord, Lord Green, has mentioned, because there are obviously a lot of issues here about what is citizenship and what is entitlement to vote. Of course, for historical reasons, entitlement to vote in this country is very complex and has developed over a long time. The link between the right to abode in this country and a British passport has been broken. We are changing that situation gradually, but it is very complex.

I have some sympathy with the comments of my noble friends Lord Liddle and Lord Foulkes because I must declare an interest: I am married to a Spanish citizen who came here to work and has been here for 20 years, and who does participate in civic life in this country. He regularly votes for his local councillor and considers himself an EU citizen. He considers himself

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part of a European Union and I think the problem we have in terms of this referendum is that it will undoubtedly cause him concern if Britain votes to leave the EU. No longer will he have that common bond; he will be told that he is simply a visitor here.

The noble Lord may raise a question here about residents having the opportunity to apply for citizenship and I will return to that, but I want noble Lords to address a number of questions which I would like the Minister to answer. Whatever conclusion we make, there are nearly 2 million people who have been living in this country and participated in civic society who deserve some clear answers.

When we came to a question about the future of the United Kingdom and a referendum was held in part of the United Kingdom, in Scotland, the decision was taken that the appropriate electorate for that decision was the franchise for the Scottish parliamentary elections—the local government franchise. No one disputed that at the time, as my noble friend Lord Foulkes said. Now I think citizens of the European Union—because that is what they are—who work here and have lived here for some time will ask if they vote for British representation—

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: On the point that no one disputed the franchise, I certainly received many, many letters from people who were Scots living in England complaining that they did not have a vote in the Scottish referendum and that people who had come here from other European countries on a short-term basis—shorter than the noble Lord’s partner—perhaps to work for only one or two years did have a vote. It was by no means uncontroversial.

Lord Collins of Highbury: I know it was not uncontroversial because the previous Government conceded a referendum on the future of the United Kingdom where all parts of that United Kingdom would have said that they wanted a say in the future of this United Kingdom. That did not happen. I think that is a legitimate point to make. My husband is not my partner any longer—we have now been able to change that—but he and the 2 million people who came to this country and are here on a certain understanding are going to be faced with the prospect of radical changes in their circumstances without having any say.

I raised the point of Scotland, as did my noble friend Lord Foulkes, but when we come to British representation in the European Parliament, European citizens are entitled to vote for British representation in the European Parliament, not French or Spanish or whatever. My husband does not cast his vote in the European elections in Spain; he casts them here for British representation. They deserve an answer to that question and they deserve to know why you are choosing the Westminster franchise when maybe—as in Scotland or in Wales—the appropriate franchise would be the people who are most affected.

Of course as we come into the other debate on the next group, there is an issue about people who have resided here who can obtain the right to vote and get the Westminster franchise if they become British citizens. In the media last week, there were clear signs that

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people are concerned about their status changing and are therefore willing to fork out nearly £1,000 to obtain British citizenship. Maybe my husband will make that same decision—partly because he does not have to break his ties with Spain but can obtain dual nationality. That is not the case for everyone.

9.30 pm

Lord Green of Deddington: I think it is true to say that, for all EU nationalities, dual citizenship is permitted.

Lord Collins of Highbury: Well then, good, but I still think that people need an answer to that question. People are moving to obtain British citizenship and we have to be clear on the consequences of this.