I believe that the overall system of citizenship rights in Britain makes it difficult to justify allowing 16-year-olds the right to vote.

The main difficulty is the fact that the law does not officially recognise 16-yearolds as having full ?adult? status, given that they are excluded from such rights as driving, drinking, and even watching certain movies.

In this respect, 16-year-olds are unable to engage in the full experience of adulthood, an experience which surely must be essential in making an informed choice at elections.

Many would argue that the teaching of citizenship in schools is a sufficient basis for making those sorts of informed decisions. However, I would dispute this, given that abstract academic knowledge of the world is no substitute for practical experience.

The majority of 16-year-olds have had insufficient experience of the workplace, the operation of the economy, or of being able to live independently of their parents.

Therefore, it is difficult for such young voters to be able to make educated judgments about key issues such as taxation, employment, pensions and public service reform.

When it comes to the issue of voting, I believe that we have to ask ourselves the prior question of how far we are prepared to go in allowing 16-year-olds full citizenship status.

If we allow them to vote on such key issues as those above, would we then be willing to allow them other rights, such as the right to drive, and drink, which they are excluded from at present?

If the law changed to recognise 16-year-olds as full adults with all the rights that this entails, I believe that it would be absolutely right to allow them the vote.

But until that happens, it seems absurd that young people should be expected to vote while, for example, they are not even allowed to watch movies which contain swear words and violence.

As such, I believe that the debate over voting rights for young people should be widened to include the broader issue of at which age we expect young people to be recognised as adults in general.

This would be a far more fruitful discussion, I believe, and a necessary prerequisite to extending the franchise to those under the age of 18.