HC Deb 02 February 1998 vol 305 cc716-8
16. Mr. Chope

What plans he has to lower the age of majority.[24627]

Ms Quin

The Family Law Reform Act 1969 reduced the age of majority to 18. The Government have no plans to change it.

Mr. Chope

I accept the Minister's response, but has she thought about the anomalies in this country, such as the age of majority being 16 in Scotland but 18 in England? In view of the much-publicised events over Christmas and the new year involving the reporting in Scotland of proceedings affecting 16 to 18-year-olds in England, will she think again about whether the age of majority in England should be the same as the age of majority in Scotland—whether that means reducing the age in England to that in Scotland, or raising the age in Scotland to that in England?

Ms Quin

Although we do not have any plans to change the system in England, we are studying the handling of cases involving juveniles before the courts, along the lines mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.

Ms Ward

Is my hon. Friend aware that our system means that although at the age of 18, members of the public may vote for their elected representatives, they may not stand to be an elected representative of either this House or a council until they have reached the age of 21? They cannot indulge in a number of other activities until they reach the age of 16, 17, 18 or 21. There should be consistency in the ages at which people attain rights. Will my hon. Friend review the matter and carefully consider whether we should ensure that people attain rights at one age?

Ms Quin

We believe that it is important to examine the separate issues, and then to decide the most appropriate age that might apply in the circumstances. Although we do not have any plans to change the age at which people may stand as a candidate, as it seems to be very much in line with practice across Europe, the working party on electoral procedures, which was mentioned earlier and is chaired by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth), may wish to examine that issue.

Mr. Bercow

Has the Minister received any representations on lowering the age of majority from the Minister without Portfolio—who, in a desperate search for supporters for the millennium dome project, has very wisely hired the services of an eight-year-old boy?

Ms Quin

The citizens of the future are important voices to listen to in that process, but I have received no such representations.

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