Thursday, 3 November 2011

Comments on my visit to the House of Parliament.

Houses of Parliament

After what can only be described as a very pedestrian start to what would otherwise have been a well desired day off, I made it into Westminster at about 10:45.

The first comment i would make is how much I love the layout within the depths of Westminster Underground station. To most I imagine the innards of the station to be dull. However if you treat the rather industrial look (the grey beams and pillars make the whole thing look like a machine) with an open mind, you might just conjure up a nice metaphor along the lines that those otherwise dull objects represent the wheels of the economic, social and legislative functions turning, in what goes on above ground in the Houses of Parliament.

Leaving through Exit three of the Station, you find yourself emerging from underneath perhaps the UK’s most famous Landmark, Big Ben.

After wading through the inevitable security measures in place at the Cromwell Entrance, you emerge into a very dull room, otherwise known as Westminster Hall. Had it not been a cloudy day or perhaps if they had turned the lights on, what looked like a glorified Barn of a structure might have been a little more spectacular. However, this was not the case and was just a large dull hall.

Me and a fellow student made our way to the House of Commons Gallery, after a queuing a short while and checking some bags, we ended up in the gallery. It all looked very grand on first impression, and further it looked rather small. Perhaps the TV makes it looks fat, because in reality from my perspective it seemed incredible tight. Perhaps a good selling point for the reduction in of fifty MPs come the next election will result in a more spacious chamber for our representatives.

What we viewed as the extension of Question Time, where the house questions the work of the Minister of a particular department. After the scheduled questions have been answered, the floor was opened to “urgent questions”. Urgent Questions are a new feature in the proceedings of Parliament, implemented by the Backbench Business Committee, something I will discuss later.

We then left to view the House of Lords. There was much less ‘to and fro’ between members, as to be expected, and more long winded, thoroughly prepared speeches and comments from the members to the House. The impact of Creative Industries (media sources to you and I) was what was discussed and despite being not fully up to speed on for example local Newspapers or Children’s Television, the experience was still quite interesting.

We then left for Lunch. The only detail I shall give is that I had a very over-priced Cheese Baguette from a Pub across the road.

We then returned into Parliament, again with the hassle of going through security.

At 2:30 we had a discussion scheduled with three different Parliamentarians.

The First, John Whittingdale, was Chair of the Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport. Of all Select Committees, this one has had particularly large media exposure in recent weeks because these have been the Parliamentarians involved in investigating the Phone Hacking scandal of the News International Group, which as can be imagined led to some interesting discussion.

We then had a visit from Peter Bone MP, who describes himself as the 2nd most rebellious MP in the Conservative Party. He is a member of the earlier mentioned Backbench Business Committee, a newly formed Committee. In a nutshell they make life difficult for the House of Commons, tabling debates that the House otherwise doesn’t want to talk about. They have three criteria, which if all are fulfilled means a topic is primetime for discussion. 1: If all Parties agree on something, it’s wrong, we must debate this topic. 2: If they disagree on something within the party, they must debate the topic. 3: If the public are talking about it, and express their desire to discuss it with 100,000 signatures on a petition, they must debate it. Things like the European Union Referendum fulfilled all three criteria, and came about because of a petition supported by the Daily Express.

Finally, Sir George Young discussed the changing role of the House of Commons. Perhaps the most recognisable figure seen today, the Conservative Front Bencher is the Leader of the House of Commons.

All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening day. I consider myself quite lucky in some of the opportunities that have been given to me. For example, I had an experience very similar to today’s events two years ago on a School Trip to Prague. At the time I did not really appreciate how lucky I was, only now do I realise how good an experience it was.

I had to rather dash out however to catch my train. I did however spend a moment watching David Dimbleby prepare for tonight’s Question Time Broadcast, which will be shot from the afore mentioned Westminster Hall.

I did discuss with some friends, that despite being a learning trip, I also wanted it to be a motivational one. Did the day succeed in sending me the vibes of: Alex, you want to be here, you need to work hard so you can end up here. Yes it did. I look forward massively to being there next year, working for an MP. Bring it on, and bring on a career in Public Office of some kind.

I’ll leave you with the final thought that I am travelling back First Class, because it was Cheaper than standard, which comes with a free evening meal or Sandwiches. I can confirm how thoroughly disgusted at the fact the meal involved Goats Cheese. East Coast will receive a sternly word letter in the morning from me with regards to their thoroughly vile meal options on board.