Press Releases

Only an elected upper house can truly hold Peers to account, says ERS

27th July 2015
27 Jul 2015

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For immediate release - statement from the Electoral Reform Society
 
Contact Josiah Mortimer, Communications Officer, on josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk or 07717211630 for further quotes, comment or information
 
Commenting on the latest scandal in the House of Lords, Darren Hughes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:
 
“Every year there are stories like this about our upper House, and every time the need for reform becomes more pressing. 
 
“The idea that Peers can totally lose the confidence of the public and never be held to account is bewildering to most people. But we can only get real accountability through an elected chamber – not through the cosy arrangements that exist at the moment. 
 
“The main problem here – as always with our unelected House of Lords – is that the public are excluded. The voters should have the final say in deciding who makes our laws.
 
“Clearly the set-up we have for the House of Lords is unsustainable – it’s too big, costs too much and its arcane rules leave the public in disbelief.
 
“All this points to the need an elected upper chamber, where the people who decide on Britain’s laws are elected by the people they affect.” 

16 year-old leads first major rally for fairer voting system

23rd July 2015
23 Jul 2015

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  • Press release - embargoed for 00:01 24th July
  • Statement from the Voting Reform Coalition
  • For further quotes, comment or to arrange an interview, email Emily.Randall@unlockdemocracy.org.uk or call 07834185266

Hundreds of campaigners including Peter Tatchell, Lib Dem MP Tom Brake and prospective Green mayoral candidate Sian Berry will rally outside Parliament this Saturday to demand politicians fix the UK’s ‘broken voting system’.

The rally, organised by 16 year old student and Member of Youth Parliament Owen Winter, alongside other campaigners, will demand a proportional voting system where seats match votes.

The event follows the most disproportionate election in British history on May 7th. Over a thousand people have already registered to attend the ‘Great Gathering for Voting Reform’ at Old Palace Yard from 1pm on the 25th July.  

The campaigners aim to highlight the ‘bizarre results’ caused by First-Past-The-Post in this year’s General Election by participating in a creative stunt, alongside speeches and discussion outside Parliament.

Speaking at the event will be long-standing pro-democracy activist Peter Tatchell, prospective Green Party mayoral candidate Sian Berry, the Liberal Democrat’s Tom Brake MP, UKIP’s Jonathan Arnott MEP, Owen Winter MYP, the 16 year-old Member of Youth Parliament who kick-started the campaign, Deputy Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society Darren Hughes, Labour activist George Aylett and Alexandra Runswick, Director of Unlock Democracy.

Before the General Election, Owen Winter, a 16 year old from Cornwall, created a petition on the website change.org calling for electoral reform [1].

Organiser Owen Winter MYP said: “The general election result in no way reflected what voters really wanted. We want to ensure that everyone’s votes count in the future under a different system. First-Past-The-Post is broken, and our political leaders need to realise this before our democracy is permanently fractured.

“This rally will be the first major gathering calling for voting reform since the General Election. People want their voices to be heard - they want a fair voting system, and the issue of our broken electoral system is not going away. This event will be the start of a major campaign to make sure seats match votes in 2020.

Pro-democracy campaigner Peter Tatchell said: "The Chartists and Suffragettes fought for a representative parliament that reflects the spectrum of public opinion. We don't have that. The government has a majority of seats based on 37% of the vote. UKIP and the Greens won five million votes but only one MP each. The SNP secured 56 out of 59 Scottish seats, despite winning only half the popular vote. Democracy is meaningless without a fair voting system.

"I'm proud to join the Great Gathering for Voting Reform. Fair votes are vital for democracy and to help restore public engagement with, and confidence in, the political system."

Prospective Green Party Mayoral candidate Sian Berry said: “The age of the two-party system is over. Fresh new parties like the Greens have broken through and are re-energising politics on the ground, reflected in our increased vote but not in more representation. Our broken electoral system must now catch up with the people. I’m pleased to be joining together with campaigners today to call for a new voting system and a much greater variety of voices in Parliament.”

UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott said: "The 2015 General Election was the least proportional in British history.  Yet millions live in seats which haven't changed hands for a generation - in such circumstances, who can blame people who feel their vote doesn't matter?  I believe it's time for us to stand together to demand change from our government, for a modern system meeting the needs of a multi-party 21st-century democracy."

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake said: “I believe that Britain’s electoral system should deliver maximum power to the voter, no more wasted votes, and a representative body that proportionately reflects the opinions of the electorate. It is fantastic to join the Great Gathering for Voter Reform and campaign on such an important issue.”

Alexandra Runswick, Director of Unlock Democracy, said: “Millions of people were let down by our broken electoral system in May. I'm delighted to be joining with so many people at the Great Gathering to demand a fairer voting system. 2015 must be the last election where the seats don’t match the votes.

This unfairness is repeated across the country at local elections. In England and Wales, local elections are lumbered with a voting system that encourages uncontested seats, low turnouts and fails to represent the diversity of our communities. I will be calling on people today to pledge to improve democracy in their communities as well as at Westminster.”

Darren Hughes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “May’s election was yet another sign that our voting system is bust, with seats failing to match how people voted. We urgently need a national debate about how we elect our MPs, and now is the perfect time for a citizen-led proposals as politicians go into recess.

“We can’t afford to go into the 2020 election under the same out-dated system, where people’s votes fail to be reflected in Parliament. It’s time for reform, and this gathering is central to building that case. After the most disproportionate election result in British history, the issue is not going away.”

Labour campaigner George Aylett said: “The event follows the May election result where the Conservatives achieved a majority government despite only gaining 36.9% of the vote, whilst for their four million votes, UKIP secured just one seat in the House of Commons.

“At the same time, the Scottish National Party gained just over half of the popular Scottish vote, but won 56 out of the 59 seats in Scotland, and the Greens received only one seat for their million votes.”

The Great Gathering will be starting at 1pm at Old Palace Yard, Westminster. Journalists are invited to attend.

For further quotes, comment or to arrange an interview, email Emily.Randall@unlockdemocracy.org.uk or call 07834185266

ENDS   

Notes

[1] Thousands of people signed Owen’s petition- after Unlock Democracy and the ERS initiated their own petitions, nearly half a million people called for electoral reform. The petitions were collated and presented to the government in May- the leaders of UKIP and the Green Party, Nigel Farage and Natalie Bennett, were the headliners in a political delegation including MPs from the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats.

Owen’s petition also inspired the creation of the Voting Reform Team: comprising 4,000 individuals from all walks of life, the VRT have combined to organise an event which they hope will motivate people to push for electoral reform.    

The Facebook event for the Great Gathering for Voting Reform is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1407096636284737/

Government must not backtrack on Lords’ Votes at 16 success

16th July 2015
16 Jul 2015

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Commenting on the House of Lords voting 221-154 in favour of allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in local elections [1], Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“This Lords vote is a big step forward for the campaign for votes at 16. That Peers voted by a majority of 67 to support a fairer franchise – in a House where the average age is 70 – is clearly a sign of how far this debate has come, and how strong backing is for these young people to get a say.

“16 and 17 year olds proved that they care about politics in the Scottish referendum, with 75% voting and 97% saying they would do so in the future. They accessed more information than any other age group, and registered in their thousands. And after the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed Votes at 16 last month, now young Scots will get a chance to vote in almost all elections there.

“At the same time, Wales is set to lower the voting age next year after the power is devolved in the upcoming Wales Bill. The largest ever consultation on the issue in Wales showed yesterday [2] that 53% (to 29%) of young people in Wales back the move. It’s time that this right was extended across the rest of the UK.

“It would be insulting to the 1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds across the UK for the government to reverse this decision when the Bill returns to the Commons after the summer. The first generation to receive citizenship education want a voice in politics, and the government should support that.

“David Cameron said during the election he wanted a debate on the issue. Now is the time for the Conservative Party to embrace this reform, and to give our educated school-leavers a say in the issues which affect them.

“Let’s not allow this to become another wedge between the countries of the UK. Britain can lead the way on this - and bring our nations’ young people together.

“With Wales and Scotland set to get votes at 16, it’s time for a ‘one nation’ franchise – where all young people have an equal voice in our democracy.

ENDS

For further quotes, comment or to arrange an interview, contact: Josiah Mortimer, Communications Officer - 07717211630, josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

[1] As part of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill – see the full debate in the House of Lords on Amendment 73 here (scroll to column 636 for the division): http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201516/ldhansrd/text/150715-0002.htm#15071552001140

[2] http://www.yourassembly.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Vote@16-REPORT-E-small.pdf

Rushing through shift to individual voter registration is 'worrying move' say experts

16th July 2015
16 Jul 2015

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For further quotes or comment, contact josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk or call 07717211630

Commenting on the Minister for Constitutional Reform John Penrose's statement to the House of Commons today on the shift to Individual Electoral Registration [1], Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“The government’s decision today to hurry the shift to individual registration – against the advice of the Electoral Commission - is a worrying move indeed.

“There are nearly two million people left on the old register who are at risk of being completely excluded if the government refuses to give enough time to transfer to the new register. Private renters and young people (who move around most) could be most at  risk.

“Holes in the register of this scale are not good news for the boundary-drawing exercise, especially when the completeness of the register is such an important issue.”

“We are not convinced there is enough time and money and for these two million people to be moved over to the new register before the end of the year. This could result in people losing their say – a real travesty for democracy, particularly in the run up to several major elections in May next year.

“Above all though, we need a registration revolution in this country, not tinkering around the edges. Registering should be as easy as voting itself. Lots of countries have innovative ways to register - and there’s no reason we can’t either.”

[1] http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-vote-office/July%202015/16%20July/1-CO-Individual.pdf

For further quotes or comment, contact josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk or call 07717211630

Votes at 16 could ‘transform politics for a generation of young people in Wales’

15th July 2015
15 Jul 2015

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  • Electoral Reform Society (ERS) Cymru welcomes Welsh Assembly Commission report showing strong support among young people for votes at 16 in Wales
  • Society urges Welsh Government to use new powers to implement votes at 16 alongside  new programme of political education in schools

15/07/2015 – Statement from ERS Cymru for IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Owain ap Gareth, ERS Cymru Campaigns & Research Officer (owain.apgareth@electoral-reform.org.uk – 07771661802) or Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer (Josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk – 07717211630)

The Electoral Reform Society Cymru today welcomed the findings of the Presiding Officer of the Welsh Assembly, Dame Rosemary Butler AM’s six month consultation on votes for 16 and 17 year olds with young people in Wales. The survey shows strong support among Welsh youth to get a say in who represents them in the National Assembly.

With over 10,000 young people consulted, the results show 53% of young respondents in favour of votes at 16; 29% against; with 18% stating ‘don’t know’.

Dr Owain ap Gareth, Campaign and Research Officer at ERS Cymru said:

“This is the most comprehensive survey of young people we have had in Wales, so it’s heartening that there is such a clear majority in favour of votes for 16 and 17 year olds. We now urge all parties to listen to our young people and commit to moving to votes at 16 for Welsh elections – both at local and national level.”

The National Assembly for Wales is set to gain new powers over elections in Wales in the forthcoming Wales Bill, including over the franchise, the electoral system and the voting age.

Dr Owain ap Gareth added:

“This report shows unequivocally that there is a clear appetite among 16 and 17 year olds in Wales to have a say in the decisions which affect them. The Welsh Government should ensure these calls do not go ignored – and let Wales lead the way in terms of a fair franchise in the UK.

“Now is the time to introduce a major programme of political education in schools in Wales. The survey shows that young people want to learn more about politics, with 79% thinking it important that young people learn more about politics and the voting system, and 77% thinking schools and colleges are the best place to do so. There is huge untapped enthusiasm and potential among our young people here.

“Of those young people who voted against votes at 16 in the survey, many are likely to be concerned that young people do not know enough about politics and to make an informed choice as citizens. So it’s vital that 16 and 17 year olds have the chance to learn about politics in an impartial way and to discuss the issues which affect them in schools.

“Granting the votes to 16 and 17 year olds was a resounding success during the Scottish independence referendum, and ERS Cymru urge the Welsh government to learn from this success. The incredibly youth engagement in Scotland during the referendum was linked to pupils’ learning in schools and ensuring young people were registered to vote.

“With the proposed changes to the Welsh curriculum following the Donaldson Review [1], we should be looking at how Votes at 16 can be part of an overarching strategy in learning about politics and encouraging strong citizenship, as well as registering young voters in schools and colleges. 

“Done correctly, this could transform politics for a generation of young people in Wales.”

ENDS

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview in Welsh or English, contact:

Dr Owain ap Gareth on owain.apgareth@electoral-reform.org.uk or on 07771 661 802.

Or if unavailable, comment/information in English from Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - Josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk – 07717211630

Notes

[1] The Donaldson Review put citizenship front and centre as a main purpose of the curriculum. Donaldson stated that the purposes of the curriculum in Wales should be that pupils and young people develop as:

  • ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives
  • enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work
  • ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world
  • healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society.

Electoral Reform Society Cymru recently published a report on Young People and Politics, ‘Wales Power Report II: The Power and Voice of Young People in Wales’, with the sections on political education from page 22 here: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/publication/welsh_power_english_0.pdf

For a blog on democracy and the Donaldson review, see here: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/implementing-donaldson-review-wales

Gall Pleidlais yn 16 oed 'drawsnewid gwleidyddiaeth i genedlaeth o bobl ifanc Cymru'

15th July 2015
15 Jul 2015

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  • Electoral Reform Society (ERS) Cymru yn croesawu adroddiad yn dangos cefnogaeth i pleidleisiau yn 16 oed ymhlith pobl ifanc Cymru
  • ERS yn annog Llywodraeth Cymru i ddefnyddio pwerau newydd i roi pleidlais yn 16 ochr yn gyfochr â rhaglen newydd o addysg wleidyddol mewn ysgolion

15/07/2015 - Datganiad gan Electoral Reform Society (ERS) Cymru i’w RYDDHAU AR UNWAITH

Cysylltwch â:

Owain ap Gareth, ERS Cymru Ymgyrchoedd ac Ymchwil Swyddog (owain.apgareth@electoral-reform.org.uk - 07771661802)

Josiah Mortimer, Swyddog Cyfathrebu ERS (Josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk - 07717211630)

Mae Electoral Reform Society (ERS) Cymru heddiw wedi croesawu darganfyddiadau ymgynghoriad chwe mis gan Lywydd y Cynulliad, y Fonesig Rosemary Butler, ar bleidleisio yn 16 a 17 oed gyda phobl ifanc yng Nghymru. Mae’r arolwg yn dangos cefnogaeth gryf ymysg ieuenctid Cymru i gael llais ar bwy sydd yn eu cynrychioli yn y Cynulliad Cenedlaethol.

Gyda dros 10,000 o bobl ifanc yn cymryd rhan yn yr ymgynghoriad, mae’r canlyniadau yn dangos  53% o blaid Pleidlais yn 16 oed; 29% yn erbyn; gyda 18% yn dweud 'ddim yn gwybod'.

Dywedodd Dr Owain ap Gareth, Ymgyrch a Swyddog Ymchwil yn ERS Cymru:

"Dyma'r arolwg fwyaf cynhwysfawr o bobl ifanc yr ydym wedi’i gael yng Nghymru ar hyn, felly mae'n galonogol bod yna fwyafrif cryf  o blaid pleidleisiau ar gyfer pobl ifanc 16 a 17 oed. Rydym yn annog pob plaid i wrando ar ein pobl ifanc ac ymrwymo’n gryf i symud i bleidlais yn 16 oed ar gyfer etholiadau yng Nghymru – yn lleol ac yn genedlaethol"

Mae Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru yn mynd i ennill pwerau newydd dros etholiadau yng Nghymru yn y Bil Cymru sydd ar ddod, gan gynnwys dros y system etholiadol a'r oedran pleidleisio.

Ychwanegodd Dr Owain ap Gareth:

"Mae'r arolwg yma yn dangos yn glir bod awydd gan pobl ifanc 16 a 17 Cymru i gael llais yn y penderfyniadau sy'n effeithio arnynt. Dylai Llywodraeth Cymru sicrhau nad yw eu galwad yn cael ei anwybyddu - a gadael i Gymru arwain y ffordd o ran llais deg i bobl ifanc yn y DU.

"Nawr yw'r amser i gyflwyno rhaglen gynhwysfawr o addysg wleidyddol mewn ysgolion yng Nghymru. Mae'r arolwg yn dangos bod pobl ifanc yn awyddus i ddysgu mwy am wleidyddiaeth, gyda 79% yn meddwl ei bod yn bwysig bod pobl ifanc yn dysgu mwy am wleidyddiaeth a'r system bleidleisio, a 77% o’r farn mai ysgolion a cholegau yw’r lle gorau i wneud hynny. Mae yna sylfaen o frwdfrydedd a photensial ymhlith ein pobl ifanc yma a mae’n rhaid adeiladu arno.

“O'r bobl ifanc hynny a oedd yn erbyn pleidleisio yn 16 oed yn yr arolwg, mae’n debygol eu bod yn bryderus nad yw pobl ifanc yn gwybod digon am wleidyddiaeth i wneud dewis wybodus. Felly mae'n hanfodol bod 16 a 17 oed yn cael y cyfle i ddysgu am wleidyddiaeth mewn ffordd ddiduedd ac i drafod y materion sy'n effeithio arnynt mewn ysgolion.

"Roedd cyflwyno Pleidlais yn 16 yn lwyddiant ysgubol yn ystod y refferendwm annibyniaeth yr Alban an mae ERS Cymru yn galw ar Lywodraeth Cymru i ennill o’r llwyddiant hynny. Roedd ymateb pobli ifanc yn yr Alban yn ystod y Refferendwm yn gysylltiedig a ddysg am wleidyddiaeth yn mewn ysgolion, yn ogystal a sicrhau bod pobl ifanc yn cael eu cofrestru i bleidleisio mewn ysgolion.

"Gyda'r newidiadau arfaethedig i'r cwricwlwm Cymreig yn dilyn yr Adolygiad Donaldson [1], dylem fod yn edrych ar sut y gall Pleidlais yn 16 oed fod yn rhan o strategaeth ehangach mewn dysgu am wleidyddiaeth ac annog dinasyddiaeth cryf, yn ogystal â chofrestru pleidleiswyr ifanc mewn ysgolion a cholegau.

"Os yw hyn yn cael ei wneud yn iawn, gall drawsnewid gwleidyddiaeth i genhedlaeth o bobl ifanc yng Nghymru."

DIWEDD

Am fwy o wybodaeth, dyfyniadau neu i drefnu cyfweliad yn Gymraeg neu Saesneg, cysylltwch â:

Dr Owain ap Gareth ar owain.apgareth@electoral-reform.org.uk neu ar 07771 661 802.

Neu mae sylwadau / gwybodaeth ar gael yn Saesneg o Josiah Mortimer, Swyddog Cyfathrebu ERS - Josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk - 07717 211 630

Nodiadau

[1] Roedd dinasyddiaeth yn rhan blaenllaw a chanolog o Adolygiad Donaldson fel prif bwrpas i’r cwricwlwm. Dywedodd Donaldson y dylai ddibenion y cwricwlwm yng Nghymru yw bod disgyblion a phobl ifanc yn datblygu fel:

  • Dysgwyr llwyddiannus: ymatebion sy’n cyfeirio at y deilliannau gwybyddol o addysg ac ymagweddau at ddysgu a gwybodaeth.
  • Unigolion hyderus: ymatebion sy’n cyfeirio at agweddau ar effeithiolrwydd personol a hunanhyder.
  • Dinasyddion cyfrifol: ymatebion sy’n ymwneud â’r angen i addysg feithrin ymdeimlad o gyfrifoldeb cymdeithasol.
  • Oedolion cymwys: ymatebion sy’n ymdrin â ‘sgiliau bywyd’.

Mi gyhoeddodd ERS Cymru adroddiad ar bobl ifanc a gwleidyddiaeth, “Pwer yn Nghymru II: Pwer a Llais Phobl Ifanc yng Nghymru” yn ddiweddar:  http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/publication/pwer_yng_nghymru_0.pdf

Gwelwch yma flog ar adroddiad Donaldson ac addysg ar wleidyddiaeth a dinasyddiaeth: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/implementing-donaldson-review-wales

 

Railroading English Votes through without proper debate would be ‘constitutionally reckless’

2nd July 2015
2 Jul 2015

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Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release - 02/07/2015, 13:00

Contact: Josiah Mortimer, Communications Officer - 07717211630, josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Commenting on the Leader of the House Chris Grayling MP’s announcement that the government will press ahead with a version of English Votes for English Laws [1], Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

There are strong arguments for reforming how votes take place in Parliament, given the devolution we’ve seen over recent years. But for the government to railroad this complex change through with just one day’s worth of debate [2] is playing fast and loose with Britain’s constitution. There should be a full and extensive debate on this both inside and outside Parliament, with MPs and citizens properly involved in deciding what is a crucial issue of democratic principle.

“With less than two weeks to weigh up the proposals before the vote, the government is pushing through a major change to how our democracy works with little thought to the possible ramifications. This is about the future of the union, and it would be constitutionally reckless to ram English Votes through with only one day of Parliamentary debate.   

“There are profound constitutional consequences and questions that emerge if this move goes ahead with little debate. Does this politicise the Speaker? [3] Are we drifting towards a federal state? What’s the future of the union now? And what role do citizens have in deciding where our democracy goes from here? Surely the government can no longer resist the valid calls for a constitutional convention, to bring these debates together and to decide what kind of democracy we really want.”

For further quotes, comment or to arrange an interview, contact: Josiah Mortimer, Communications Officer - 07717211630, josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

[1] This will be by amending the House’s standing orders. The Leader of the House’s statement to the Commons, 11:30am, 2nd July: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/8315f42e-dc7a-485c-ac7f-21de8032e9ba

[2] The debate and vote on amending the House’s standing orders to introduce EVEL will be on the 15th July.

[3] The Speaker will have to decide which Bills will be covered by the new EVEL procedures.

Full government announcement: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/english-veto-brings-balance-and-fairness-to-parliament

Detailed proposals: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/440880/English_Votes_for_English_Laws_-_Proposed_Changes_to_the_Standing_Orders_of_the__House_of_Commons_and_Explanatory_Memorandum.pdf

House of Lords is 'elephant in the room' and needs radical reform – not more unelected Peers

26th June 2015
26 Jun 2015

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Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release - 26/06/2015, 16:30
Contact: Josiah Mortimer, Communications Officer - 07717211630, josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

News that the House of Lords is set to further grow in size over the coming months [1] was condemned by reform campaigners today.

The Society can reveal research which shows that rebalancing the Upper Chamber strictly in line with May 7th’s results would result in an additional 704 Peers, at a potential cost of £81m [2].

Commenting on the news, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“The news that our already bloated House of Lords is set to swell even more simply beggars belief - and is further proof that our upper chamber is in dire need of reform.

“With nearly 800 members, we already have the largest second house in the world – and the only one in Europe that is fully appointed.

“At the same time, the fact that the Liberal Democrats – who won 8% of the vote at the last election – could increase their share from the current 21% of partisan Peers shows just how out of kilter the House of Lords is with public opinion. This move completely ignores the fact that their support fell dramatically at the General Election.

“The solution however isn’t to boost the Lords in one direction or another. There are already 136 more unelected lawmakers than elected ones – a shocking state of affairs for an ostensibly modern democracy.  To rebalance the Upper Chamber strictly in line with May 7th’s results would result in an additional 704 Peers. This would, clearly, be ludicrous, and indeed expensive: the average cost of a Peer per year is £115,000.

“Instead of packing the Lords with more party donors and former MPs, we should recognise the elephant in the room and move to a fully elected upper chamber. The House of Lords is in urgent need of reform, and the sooner this archaic House is brought into the 21st Century the better.”

Contact: Josiah Mortimer, Communications Officer - 07717211630, josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jun/25/house-of-lords-to-see-in...
[2] Based on 2013 figures which show the cost per year per Peer is £115,000. 

Unanimously-passed votes at 16 bill in Scotland sets precedent for rest of UK

18th June 2015
18 Jun 2015

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Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 17:00, 18/06/2015

For Scottish media enquiries, contact Willie Sullivan, willie.sullivan@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07940 523 842. For UK-wide media enquiries contact Josiah Mortimer (josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07454397816)

  • ERS welcomes Scottish Parliament unanimously passing Bill giving 16 and 17 year olds the vote: “UK government should follow Holyrood’s example,” for EU referendum and all other elections
  • Vote in Westminster on votes at 16 falls by 310-265: “A huge missed opportunity,” says Katie Ghose, Chief Executive 
  • ERS warns of danger of divided UK franchise: “Westminster shouldn’t let this become an issue which drives a wedge between the nations of the UK” amid talk of 'one nation' Britain

As the Scottish Parliament voted to lower the voting age for all Scottish elections to 16, Willie Sullivan, Director of ERS Scotland, commented:

“The Electoral Reform Society has long argued that the franchise should be extended to include 16 and 17 year olds so we are delighted that today Holyrood has given our young people the opportunity to participate in all Scottish elections. The UK government should now follow Holyrood’s example, allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the upcoming EU referendum.

“16 and 17 year olds threw themselves wholeheartedly into the Scottish referendum, with 75% voting and 97% saying they would vote in future elections. Even those opposed to extending the franchise for the referendum now agree that they participated with enthusiasm and made valuable contributions to the debate. Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP has said that her position changed to support an extension of the franchise after watching and debating in front of 16 and 17 year olds throughout the referendum.  Research undertaken by Jan Eichhorn at the University of Edinburgh found that young people accessed more information from a wider variety of sources than any other age-group.

“Westminster must now let the rest of Britain’s 16 and 17 year olds have a voice, too. It would be a gross generational injustice if the very same young people will get a vote in all Scottish elections, but not the vote on Britain’s membership of the EU. For ermine-robed Lords to be specifically allowed to vote but not the generation who helped bring such vitality to the Scottish Referendum would be an insult to those young people and democratic negligence at its worst.

“Young Scots turned towards democracy and political action when they were given the chance. Up to that point young voters across the UK were turning their backs on formal party politics. The politicians who saw this should bear witness in Westminster and ensure 16 and 17 year olds are enfranchised not just in Scotland but across the country.

Today’s Holyrood vote shows the way towards a fair franchise. Now we need a national conversation among citizens about what kind of democracy we want to be – to bring the constitutional debates on who can vote, devolution, the EU, and our broken voting system together.”

Commenting on Westminster MPs’ rejection of votes at 16 (310 votes to 265, 16:22), Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

Today’s vote at Westminster was a huge missed opportunity for our democracy, and we hope MPs will rethink the decision to exclude well over a million young people from the EU referendum. There is still time for this decision to be reversed while the Bill is going through, particularly after today’s precedent-setting example in Holyrood when Scottish MSPs voted to extend the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds”

“Nonetheless, the vote in Holyrood sets a fantastic example to the rest of the UK – and is a precedent in favour of a fair franchise. Scotland is leading the way in Britain when it comes to youth engagement, and it’s time for the rest of the UK to catch up. With 16 and 17 year olds getting the vote in Scotland, and soon Wales, Westminster shouldn’t let this become an issue which drives a wedge between the nations of the UK. 16 and 17 year olds deserve a vote in the upcoming EU referendum.

“We should have a UK-wide franchise which is open, democratic and which sends a positive message to our young people that their opinions genuinely count. It’s time for a genuinely ‘one nation’ franchise which engages our young people, instead of excluding them. This EU referendum is a real chance to follow the success of the Scottish referendum in giving 16 and 17 year olds a say in a decision which will massively impact their futures.”

For further quotes or to set up an interview, contact:

Notes

EU referendum: MPs should be given free vote on extending franchise to 16 and 17 year olds

11th June 2015
11 Jun 2015

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Electoral Reform Society notice, 11/06/2015 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 12:10

Contact: Josiah Mortimer, josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk - 07454 397 816 / 020 3714 4079

Commenting on the news that the government will give MPs a vote [1] on giving 16 and 17 year olds a vote in the upcoming EU referendum, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“It’s great news that the Prime Minister has said he supports offering MPs a vote on whether 16 and 17 year olds will be able to take part in the EU referendum.

“We hope that the government will make it a free vote – this is an issue many MPs and constituents feel very strongly about, and there should be an open debate on this issue. The Prime Minister suggested it would be a conscience vote earlier in the year, and we hope he sticks to this. 

“This referendum is a real opportunity to give 16 and 17 year olds a chance to decide on an issue which really affects them – covering housing, our environment, jobs, migration and a whole host of pressing topics which matter to young people. 

“16 and 17 year olds threw themselves wholeheartedly into the Scottish referendum, with 75% voting and 97% saying they would vote in future elections. There’s no reason why 16 and 17 year olds across the UK should be denied a similar vote in the EU referendum and get the chance to engage with British democracy.

“Hundreds of thousands more young people are set to be given the franchise for local and nationwide elections in Wales and Scotland. It would be absurd if those same young people were denied a vote in the upcoming EU referendum. But it would also be an injustice if they were given votes at 16 and not the million or more others across the UK.

“With 16 and 17 year olds getting the vote in Scotland and Wales, the government shouldn’t let this become an issue which drives a wedge between the nations of the UK. We should have a UK-wide franchise which is open, democratic and which sends a positive message to our young people that their opinions genuinely count. It’s time for a genuinely ‘one nation’ franchise. To do that, we need to include the generation that will most strongly feel the impact of the EU vote in the years to come.

“This Commons vote is a real opportunity to discuss the kind of franchise that is right for a 21st century democracy, and the way forwards is clear. Westminster should follow the suit of Scotland and Wales in giving 16 and 17 year olds a say on their country’s constitutional future. This vote is a welcome step forward in the push for a truly inclusive franchise.”

For more information, quotes or to arrange interviews, contact Josiah Mortimer, josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk - 07454 397 816 / 020 3714 4079

Notes

[1] In Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33082124