POLITICS
18/06/2015 13:20 BST | Updated 18/06/2015 15:59 BST

Labour MP Barry Sheerman Says Giving Teenagers The Vote Will Make Them Vulnerable To Sexual Abuse

A Labour MP has suggested that teenagers would be more vulnerable to sexual abuse if they were given the right to vote.

Barry Sheerman, the MP for Huddersfield who used to chair the education select committee, intervened in a Commons debate on Thursday about allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the upcoming European Union referendum.

"Isn't what is missing out of this, is the responsibility we have to care for young people who are very vulnerable? Up and down this country we've had vulnerability to sexual predators and ghastly things happening right though to 18, up and down this country.

He added: "This move to adults at 16 will make a lot of young men and women more vulnerable to sexual predation than happens at the moment."

The official Labour Party position is to support lowering the voting age for the referendum. Pat McFadden, Labour's shadow Europe minister, appeared perplexed by Sheerman's comment. "I do not see the connection between extending voting rights to people at 16 and making them more vulnerable to sexual predators," he replied.

David Cameron has so far rejected calls for 16 and 17 year olds to be given the chance to vote in the referendum. He has argued the franchise should be the same as it is for current Westminster general elections.

However advocates of the change point to the experience of the Scottish independence referendum, which saw the voting age lowered.

Sheerman, a veteran Labour MP, has long campaigned on the issue of the sexual abuse of teenagers given incidents in his own constituency.