ORDINARILY Parliament does not sit on a Friday and MPs return to their constituencies. However this is one of those weeks when there is business in the Chamber, so I will be in Westminster on Friday morning to support my colleague Jim McMahon MP in his Private Member’s Bill to extend the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds.

I support lowering the voting age to 16, as 1.5 million young people are being denied a say in their future and it’s time we changed things. I believe votes at 16 would energise and engage young people, and strengthen our democracy by opening it up to a new generation - as was clearly borne out in the Scottish Independence Referendum when more than 100,000 16 and 17-year-olds registered, and of those, three quarters voted.

The lowering of the voting age for Scottish Parliamentary and local elections, and the plan to do so for elections in Wales, is welcome.

However I’m disappointed that the UK Government continue to oppose lowering the voting age to 16, and that they voted against a Labour amendment to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the EU Referendum – which was a real disappointment to many young people in our constituency and across the country, given the enormous impact Brexit will have on their future.

More widely, I believe that extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds – who can after all join the army, get married and have a job - should be accompanied by improved citizenship education and wider youth engagement. In 2002 the then Labour Government introduced citizenship education in all secondary schools and I believe this is an important way to ensure that young people are engaged and informed in the political process.

The allegations of sexual harassment and bullying currently emerging in Westminster and more widely are deeply concerning. This problem seems to pervade all levels of society – but there should be no place for abuse, harassment and bullying in Westminster or anywhere else.

Tough action is needed to stamp it out wherever it is found, and all of us in all walks of life have a responsibility to ask how it is possible for such totally unacceptable behaviour to continue.

We must have a zero tolerance approach, and must not shy away from asking difficult questions - including of my own party. These issues go beyond party politics to basic standards of decency, respect and in some cases - the law itself.