16yo ‘brains too immature’ to vote in EU referendum – justice minister

© Luke MacGregor
Young people aged 16 and 17 should be denied the right to vote in the upcoming referendum on Britain’s EU membership and future elections because the human brain does not fully develop until the age of 25, a justice minister has claimed.

Conservative minister Lord Faulks made the remarks during a debate about the EU, when the Upper House discussed the merits of giving 16- and 17- year-olds the right to vote in the referendum, which will take place before 2017.

Faulks’ comments were quickly likened to the argument of the Klu Klux Klan, which claims that non-white ethnicities have smaller mental capacities than white people.

The justice minister told the House of Lords that it was “scientifically” recognized that the human brain stops growing at age 25.

“Scientific study of the adolescent brain has yet to identify an obvious point at which we can distinguish between adolescents and adults,” he said.

“There is a considerably held view that it is not until the age of 25 that the adult brain reaches its ultimate state of maturity,” he said.

“We have to ask ourselves whether, in our desire to enthuse 16- and 17-year-olds, we may be in danger of placing too great a responsibility on them,” he added.

But Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester accused Lord Faulks of making arguments as dangerous as the Klu Klux Klan’s.

“The last time I heard arguments about brains and capacity was in Jackson, Mississippi, with the Ku Klux Klan showing me charts of the average Negro brain compared with a white brain,” he said.

The Earl of Listowel also warned against giving young people the vote during the debate. He argued that allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote might leave them vulnerable to extremist politics.

He said difficult economic and social circumstances “have opened doors to extremist politicians” in the past.

“For instance, in the 1930s we saw Hitler come to power in a much more extreme economic climate,” he said.

“We are in difficult times, and one can see the rise of unscrupulous politicians who can reach toward young people – one thinks of in Hitler’s time the Hitler Youth, in China, in the way in the Cultural Revolution young people were targeted by people able to influence them easily – and then we have this wonderful tool for such people of the internet.”

So I think we have to be really careful,” he added.

However, the Lords voted in favor of lowering the voting age for the EU referendum from 18 to 16, a motion which, if passed in the Commons, would add a further 1.5 million people to the franchise.

The decision comes as campaign groups begin to ramp up funding and support in anticipation of the referendum.

It was revealed Friday that former Tory treasurer Peter Cruddas would donate £1 million to the 'out' campaign. It is predicted many more giants of big business will follow suite and back a Brexit.

Just two major hedge funds have so far pledged to support the ‘in’ campaign.