POLITICS

EU Referendum: 16-Year-Olds Banned From Voting, MP Asks 'How Long Until They Rise Up?'

08/12/2015 14:42 GMT | Updated 08/12/2015 14:59 GMT

MPs have voted to ban 16 and 17-year-olds from voting in David Cameron's upcoming referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union.

Opposition peers in the House of Lords had tried to force the prime minister to allow young people a vote on the UK's membership - overturning a previous Commons vote.

However on Tuesday afternoon MPs knocked back the peers' decision by 303 to 253 - a majority of 50.

Tory MP Stewart Jackson said he did not have strong view as to whether people under the age of 18 should be allowed to vote. However he attacked the Lords for trying to block the view of the elected Commons.

"This actually is a constitutional outrage," Jackson told MPs. "That the superannuated, unelected, unaccountable panjandrum in the House of Lord have told us, what the elected House should be doing, when we have a settled view on it.

"They should learn their place. They must be subservient to the elected House and it is high time we had House of Lords reform."

The battle over giving under-18s the vote is the latest in a series of conflicts between the government and the Lords. The decision of peers to block George Osborne's planned cuts to tax credits led the prime minister to set up an inquiry into how to clip the wings of the Lords.

To prevent peers once again trying to give 16 and 17-year-olds the vote at the referendum, the amendment on teenage voting was labelled as one of "financial privilege". This means the House of Lords, which has more opposition peers than Tory peers, us prevented from voting against it.

However Lib Dem Alistair Carmichael, who served as Scottish secretary under the coalition government, was unimpressed.

“After my experience in the last parliament, the irony Conservative MPs arguing for reform of the House of Lords is never lost on me,” he said.

Lib Dem attempts to replaced the unelected Lords with an elected second chamber was torpedoed, in large part, by opposition from backbench Tory MPs.

Labour MP Vicky Foxcroft said it was "ridiculous" for Cameron to prevent 16-year-olds from voting in the referendum given they could, among other things, consent to sexual relations and join the armed forces.

"16-year-olds who are in work are even required to pay income tax and national insurance," she said. "There is something fundamentally wrong with taxation without representation. It was the very cause of the American revolution."

She added: "How long will it be before young people start to rise up? The last thing we need is more young people becoming militant."

The SNP also condemned the decision of the government to block votes for teenagers. Stephen Gethins MP, the SNP European Affairs spokesperson commented: "This is an opportunity missed and a failure by Westminster and the UK government.

"The chance to extend the franchise for the EU referendum to 16 and 17 year olds would have led to a more democratic and a more engaging campaign - and all we needed to make that happen was to accept this amendment. Today has put a stop to that hope."