Labour and Lib Dem peers step up fight for lower voting age

House Of Lords

The government has suffered yet another defeat in the House of Lords over an amendment that would give 16- and 17-year-olds the vote in council elections.

Labour and Liberal Democrat peers teamed up for the second time this week to change the cities and local government devolution bill.

They are also planning to stage similar changes to the EU referendum bill to give 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in that poll when it comes to the Lords later this year.

The defeat sets the stage for a dramatic stand-off between the two houses on the issue, as the government will now probably try to overturn the amendment when the legislation goes to the Commons.

If there is no agreement on amendments, a bill can enter the stage of “ping-pong” where it passes back and forth between the Commons and the Lords.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Lord Tyler, who introduced the amendment, said votes at 16 was “both rational and right”.

Labour spokesman Lord Kennedy said the lowering of the voting age in Scotland had shown the rest of the UK that it was “the right thing to do”. He said: “At 16 you can consent to medical treatment, join a trade union, pay tax, consent to sexual relationships, change a name by deed poll, join the armed forces, be a company director and get married with parental consent.”

However, it was opposed by a number of Conservatives, including former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine. He said it was the wrong place to make any such change, which would need much more consultation.

“It would be appropriate for that to start in the House of Commons, which reflects the elected democracy of this country and I think it would not be appropriate for this house to try and impose on the Commons a suggestion of this sort,” he said.

David Cameron is opposed to moves to lower the voting age and government minister Lady Williams of Trafford urged peers to reject the move. “It is not the bill to decide on such a huge issue as this,” she said. “We are an unelected chamber – it is not the place for us to propose a change in the franchise.”

Earlier in the week, Labour and the Lib Dems managed to defeat the government over its plans to force city regions to have elected mayors if they wanted devolution. The amendment removes that requirement.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Rowena Mason Political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 15th July 2015 21.05 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010