Twenty eight boys and four staff spent a superb morning at the Houses of Parliament. We had a tour of the main building and Westminster Hall which were brought to life with many historical stories. After the tour we were fortunate to be able to spend twenty minutes watching a debate in the House of Commons on ‘Unaccompanied Child Refugees’ which was a very emotive, interesting and relevant topic for us all. We didn’t want to leave.
The second half of the morning was spent in the Parliamentary Education Centre where we had a 360 degree digital tour of the Commons and the Lords and then had a fascinating hour learning about the ‘making of laws’ in a purpose built debating room. The boys divided into two parties and drew up four manifestos from which they chose ‘Hotels for the Homeless’ as their provisional bill (their second choice was ‘Should the voting age be lowered to 16?’).
We learned how a proposal goes from being a green paper through to a white paper and then how a bill is passed through the House of Commons, Select Committees and the House of Lords before it is finally given royal assent. The most impressive thing was that this was all done by role play. The boys had seen and learned how the debates operated so rose to speak and were selected by our very own speaker accompanied by ‘hear, hears’ or grumbles.
The boys made excellent points on the pros and cons of ‘hotels for the homeless’ with very considered, empathetic and sometimes critical comments on various aspects of the proposal. In the end the ‘ayes’ had it, with the bill having had 8 out of the 11 amendments agreed as it passed to law. An interactive quiz followed and the staff left feeling proud to have boys (some budding politicians) who can speak, think and listen on issues that affect us all. They will be good custodians of the future for the generation they represent.