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Gordon Brown: UK voting age should be lowered to 16

Unveiling proposals to restore trust in the political system following the expenses scandal, the Prime Minister said that he was in favour of votes for 16 and 17-year-olds following an extensive consultation and as part of wider reforms.

One of these could see 16-year-olds given a formal coming of age ceremony, as is done for foreigners who become British citizens.

Appearing before the Commons Liaison Committee, Mr Brown said: "It is a live issue I believe we should be prepared to discuss. But I would prefer to discuss it in the context of better citizenship education."

In a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research in London earlier, Mr Brown suggested that the public had been "rightly outraged" by the expenses scandal, and change was needed to restore trust in politics.

He added: "The parliamentary expenses scandal scarred our democracy, battered the reputation of our Parliament and so profoundly breached the bond of trust between the people and those elected to serve them that it called into question the very legitimacy of Parliament and of our political system as a whole.

"The urgent imperative for politicians on all sides is to do everything we can to connect with the people.

"The current movement for constitutional change and new politics is of historic importance.

“It signals the demand for a decisive shift in the balance of power in Britain, a long-overdue transfer of sovereignty from those who govern to those who are governed, from the old outdated sovereignty to a modern popular sovereignty, not just tidying up our constitution but transforming it."

Mr Brown said he would ask MPs to approve plans to replace first-past-the-post voting with the Alternative Vote system for Westminster elections, in a move seen as designed to woo the Liberal Democrats in the event of a hung Parliament.

The Liberal Democrats dismissed Mr Brown’s “deathbed conversion” to electoral reform however, saying that AV, in which voters rank candidates in order of preference, did not go far enough.

There were further suggestions that the announcement of electoral reform was an attempt to wrong-foot the Conservatives, who oppose the scrapping of first past the post, by making Labour appear as the party of change.

The Conservatives accused the Prime Minister of wanting to "fiddle the electoral system" in order to cling on to power.

Some Labour MPs also oppose the plans to alter the voting system following a referendum which Mr Brown said would take place by October if Labour won the general election.

But Tom Harris, a Labour backbencher, said that while he and many others opposed electoral reform, there was unlikely to be a rebellion because AV was the “least worst alternative”.

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Posted in: News by SoulRiser on February 14, 2010 @ 2:04 PM

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