Lowering voting age will shrink childhood, says MP.
Byline: Joanne Douglas News Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
HUDDERSFIELD MP Barry Sheerman says lowering the voting age could reduce childhood and put teens at risk of sexual predators.
The veteran MP warned against allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the EU referendum as he claimed the policy "shrinks childhood" and would result in adulthood beginning at 16 rather than 18.
But his comments about young people's "vulnerability to sexual predators" sparked disagreement in a House of Commons debate.
He told the Commons many of the protections afforded to children through to 18 "would be destroyed" by the change proposed by the SNP and his own Labour Party.
But after the debate, the move to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to have a vote in the EU referendum was rejected by 310 votes to 265.
Mr Sheerman, speaking during the European Union Referendum Bill committee stage, told shadow Europe minister Pat McFadden: "I find this very awkward as I nearly always agree with you on most things, but on this one, isn't what's missing out of this the responsibility we have as Parliamentarians 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 through to 18 and this move to have adults at 16 will make a lot of young men and women more vulnerable to sexual predation than that happens at the moment."
Mr McFadden replied: "I have a huge mutual respect for you but I do not see the connection between extending voting rights to people at 16 and making them more vulnerable to sexual predators."
Mr Sheerman later added: "What those of us - the small minority of us on these benches I have to say - worry about is the truth is we make becoming an adult 16 and that shrinks childhood.
"At a time when kids in this country are going to live to 100 the amount of time they're going to be children gets smaller as a percentage.
"There are arguments for or against certain things happening at 16 and 18, but the truth is that we will by this amendment, if it became law, mean that young people become adults at 16."
Mr McFadden said Mr Sheerman had made his point on shrinking childhood before, adding: "All I would say to you is maturity is not an exact science."
| Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman " sparked disagreement when he attacked the policy backed by Labour