17 Jul Parliament Trip 17th July 2017
In the last week of term, members of the Student Council visited London. It was a busy day: we left school at 7:30 am and stopped off at the RSA for a quick tour and a visit to the archives. This was very interesting because it gave us the chance to learn more about the history of the RSA and see some of its treasures. We ate our lunch there and rehearsed the questions that we had prepared to ask our MP with Roisin Ellison, our Academies Programme Coordinator from the RSA.
Then we went to the Houses of Parliament, having walked up through Victoria Tower Gardens and looked at the boats on the River Thames. We had a tour all around the Houses of Parliament and learnt a lot about the history of the building.
As it was the height of the tourist season, the Palace of Westminster was really packed and there were long queues to get into the viewing galleries but we were on a school tour so we could go straight in. First, we went into the House of Commons, which had green leather benches facing each other. We crept into the public gallery and could look down into the chamber below while debates were continuing.
Two things in particular surprised us. Proceedings in Parliament are televised, so we are used to seeing MPs speaking in the House of Commons on the news, but the cameras zoom in on the people speaking so you don’t get any idea of how enormously high and ornate the chamber is. The other thing you don’t see on TV is the fact that if someone is trying to ‘catch the eye’ of the Speaker because they have somethig to say, they have to stand up; if they aren’t chosen to have their turn, they sit down and then stand up again at the end of the speech, hoping again to be chosen. This means that MPs are bobbing up and down all the time and it all looks much more energetic than it can sometimes appear when it is televised!
Theresa May wasn’t in the House of Commons while we were there although Jeremy Corbyn came in towards the end of our time in there. We heard the MP for Bromsgrove, Sajid Javid, answering MPS’ questions about what the Government was planning to do in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. With the impressively grand surroundings and the eagerness of the MPs all trying to have their questions answered, it was impossible not to get swept into the excitement of the debate – again, not something that is really conveyed on TV, so we would thoroughly recommend a visit!
Next, we visited the House of Lords, which was similar but which had red leather benches instead of green ones.
Back at the visitors’ centre, we participated in a workshop to learn about how laws are made in Britain. We learnt that if an MP or a party wants to make a new law or change an existing one, they write a Bill which proposes the new law. The MPs debate it and then vote whether it should be adopted as a new law or not. If they vote YES, the Bill goes to the House of Lords to be debated and voted upon. If the Lords vote YES too, the Bill goes to the Queen. If she gives her Royal Assent, the bill becomes an Act of Parliament (law). In the workshop, we tried this out in practice so we got a better idea of how it works.
Finally, we met Rachel Maclean, Redditch’s new MP. We were actually the first school group to visit her in Westminster and we had plenty of questions prepared for her, including:
- What do you think the 3 most important issues are for the people of Redditch and how do you intend to help them? (The Alex featured heavily here!)
- We have European pupils in our school – what would you say to them about their future in Britain?
- If you were given a ministerial position, what would you like it to be and why would you be interested in it?
Even though it was a very long day, we learnt a lot about the RSA and what Parliament is like and how it works and you never know – one of us might end up being an MP for Redditch too!
– Student Council, Mrs Chadwick, Mrs Walton and Mrs Edwards