On November 9th, Cornwall’s MYPs (Members of Youth Parliament), Will .L, Will .D and I travelled to London in preparation for the 9th House of Commons Sitting.
The Thursday gave us the chance to explore the capital, from visiting the Sky Garden, to walking 19,000 steps around the city centre. One particularly exciting moment was seeing the Secretary of State for leaving the EU, David Davis at Downing Street. Our accommodation was much better than expected; in fact it was an apartment not a hostel, in Westminster. We experienced what it would be like for an MYP visiting Parliament.
Friday 10th was the main event. Arriving at 8:15am, we had plenty of time after passing through security to get the feel for Westminster Hall and to meet the other MYPs from all over the country. As a front bench speaker, I was taken to the Grand Committee Room at 10am for a briefing on the day, then to Speaker House to have photos taken with Speaker Rh Hon. John Bercow, and Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom. We entered the House of Commons for the proceedings to begin and took our seats. Surprisingly, the green leather was comfortable! The Chamber had a ‘close’ feel, and it is clear that the cameras make it appear bigger than it is. I was fortunate to sit on the front opposition bench, at the feet of the Speaker’s Chair.
The day began with the welcoming speeches, headed by Mr Speaker, the Leader of the House, and the Minister for Young People. Our nerves were calmed and the debated kicked off spectacularly. The debate leads were passionate and inspiring and the debates raised really important issues and ideas, which had to be considered when voting. The intense atmosphere was draining but thrilling. At the end of the five debates votes were cast as to the two issues we wanted to take forward next year as national campaigns. The results being Votes at 16 and a Curriculum for Life. We are at key stages in both of these campaigns, and another year of hard work should harvest really fantastic results for young people.
It was an honour at the end of the day to speak on behalf of the South West commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which decriminalised homosexuality in the UK. Each region had a representative and individuals raised some amazing, inspiring but also alarming facts. This was followed by a meeting with the Lord Speaker, Norman Fowler who was as a former Cabinet Minister able to share some of his experiences and views on the progression of UK society and other nations.
John Bercow yet again finished off the session with a heart-warming summation. The Education Secretary, Justine Greening and Shadow Leader of the House, Valerie Vaz also spoke to show their support for the Youth Parliament and the voice of young people.
All three of us had a fantastic time exploring London and attending/speaking in the House of Commons. Will .D, said this about the trip “The experience was astonishing and offered us the opportunity to debate on extremely important ideas for young people. I was even given the chance to stand up and speak in front of everyone (which still astounds me how I managed to keep speaking), and even though speaking in the House of Commons was scary, it was an amazing experience that allowed me to express my views and represent all of the young people in my constituency.”
I would like to thank the other MYPs, the BYC (British Youth Council), the staff at the House of Commons, the Speaker and also Kate MacArthur for working with us over the course of the trip, and for all of her support.
This two (into three) day trip was a truly unique experience. One which will no doubt stay with me as I go on to study politics, and further into whatever my career may be. Who knows, after this wonderful experience I could go on to become an MP and do it all again.