A Week in Westminster
By Albert Owen MP/AS, Ynys Môn
I have long supported votes at 16 and was ready to support my Labour colleague Jim McMahon’s Private Member’s Bill on the subject of both extending the franchise to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote, as well as providing civic and democratic education. In the past there has been some resistance, including from 16-18 year olds I have met, but in recent years there is a greater engagement and call from that group. This is especially true in the Scottish Referendum when the franchise included that age group. Moreover, there has been a greater number of young, post-18, people registering to vote in both the EU Referendum 2016 and General Election of 2017 and indeed I was helped and supported by a lot of 16-18 year olds who were fully engaged in the political debates about their future.
My longstanding support for votes at 16 is on the grounds that at 16 people can work, pay tax and National Insurance and I believe should therefore have a say through the ballot box on how those taxes are spent. In short, taxation and representation.
I have contributed in the Welsh Assembly Government’s consultation on votes in local council elections in Wales and for it to go further to have them in all elections across the UK.
I also supported the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill on how to restrain patients. This has been called ‘Seni’s Law’ after the death of Seni Lewis who died when restrained by 11 police officers. Training is vital for the police, and so is the rights of those with mental health illnesses.
In Parliament I also raised the Welsh port concerns post-Brexit, I chaired the debate on pubs and taxation - I have long campaigned for a duty freeze and opposed the VAT rise to 20%. Pubs and customers support fair taxation, so do I.
In Committee I grilled the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the ripping-off of customers by energy companies. He could, and should, act sooner and use his powers rather than cumbersome laws that will not help customers this winter.