Lords support extending Brexit vote to teenagers

Conservatives pledge to overturn the Bill allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote

British prime minister David Cameron: said the government would seek to overturn this latest amendment. Photograph: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

British prime minister David Cameron: said the government would seek to overturn this latest amendment. Photograph: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

 

David Cameron’s government will seek to reverse a vote by the House of Lords that would allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in Britain’s forthcoming referendum on EU membership.

The Lords’ vote on Wednesday night has been welcomed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats but constitutional reform minister John Penrose said the Conservative government would use its Commons majority to block it.

“The House of Commons has voted on three occasions in recent months against dropping the voting age from 18 . . . The government will re-affirm this clear position when the Bill returns to the elected chamber and will seek to overturn this latest amendment,” he said.

Support for remaining in the EU is stronger among those under 18 than any other group and politicians opposed to Britain leaving were quick to endorse the Lords’ move.

Crucial issue

Hillary BennTim FarronDavid Cameron

Although 16- and 17-year-olds were allowed to vote in last year’s referendum on Scottish independence, Joe Jenkins, the head of Ukip’s youth wing, condemned the Lords’ vote, suggesting those under 18 could be more susceptible to pro-EU messaging.

“Young people in Britain are no fools, but those below the age of 18 do not have to pay taxes, while being subject to huge amounts of pro-EU propaganda in educational establishments,” he said.

Delays

Electoral Commission

The government is confident it can reverse the Lords’ vote, as a similar proposal was rejected by the Commons in June by a majority of 45 votes. If the Commons rejects the amendment, the Lords could try to reinstate it, in which case the government would have to invoke the Parliament Act to block it.

This limits to one year the Lords’ capacity to delay legislation from the Commons, but it would make a referendum in 2016 impossible.

EU leaders are due to discuss Mr Cameron’s reform demands at a summit in Brussels next month.