Page last updated at 16:43 GMT, Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Votes for 16 and 17-year-olds

The government has been urged to lower the voting age to 16 to allow greater "democratic engagement".

The Labour MP for Sunderland Central, Julie Elliott, used a Westminster Hall debate on 18 December 2012 to question why 16 and 17-year-olds may not vote in elections, despite being able to pay tax, join the armed forces or get married.

"Granting [them] the vote would align their responsibilities with their rights as citizens," she said.

The Scottish government has announced that the voting age for the independence referendum, due to take place in 2014, will be lowered to 16 from the general UK voting age of 18.

The Northern Ireland Assembly recently passed a motion calling for the voting age to be reduced to 16.

Countries including Argentina, Austria and Brazil, as well as crown dependencies such as the Isle of Man and Jersey have a voting age of 16.

Some countries allow votes at 16 if the person is in employment.

Responding to the debate, Cabinet Office Minister Chloë Smith said she was "not convinced" about the arguments for lowering the voting age.

She pointed out that as 16 and 17-year-olds may not buy tobacco or alcohol or carry out jury service, "there is no single age of majority".

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