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BLAIR CONSIDERS VOTES AT SIXTEEN

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Teenagers could be given the vote at 16 in a move being considered by Downing Street and the new Department of Cons...
Teenagers could be given the vote at 16 in a move being considered by Downing Street and the new Department of Constitutional Affairs, according to The Observer (pp 1-2).

In a signal the government wants a major debate on this contentious issue and sympathises with those who argue the voting age should be lowered from the present 18, constitutional affairs secretary Lord Falconer said it was a vital debate and part of the reform agenda he wanted to pursue.

In an interview with the newspaper, he said: 'We expect more and more of people in relation to personal participation; we expect more and more in terms of social responsibility, in my view rightly, from people, particularly young people.

'If we want to both engage young people and make them discharge their responsibilities then I think there's got to be a quid pro quo of letting them see greater influence in the political process'.

Senior civil servants said the positive response to the issue was part of a wider radical agenda on constitutional reform. The government wants to be seen to be tackling the growing sense of disillusionment among the young about politics and also show that it still has the stomach for far-reaching policies despite major political problems over top-up fees for university students and house of lords reform.

Lord Falconer said the government would shortly respond to an inquiry set up by the Electoral Commission into the voting age. Expected to report in the new year, the commission is considering whether to recommend the change that would put Britain ahead of all its European partners, where the voting age is 18. The commission is also considering recommending reducing the age at which a person can stand to be an MP from 21 to 18.

Supporters of the proposals argue that as teenagers pay tax, can serve in the armed forces and can get married with the consent of their parents, they should also be given the vote.

Commission officials say that counter arguments include that teenagers lack the political maturity to vote at that age and that it would put Britain in an anomalous position compared to other western democracies.

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