The week of 13-17 November was UK Parliament Week, in which schools across the country were invited to participate in activities to raise awareness of what Parliament does. Students at Newtown Campus worked in SDL groups to discover the wide range of roles held by Parliament, its long history, and how it affects everyday lives and business. They made some interesting discoveries such as why the benches in the House of Commons are separated by a certain distance, how laws are made, why Parliament was a good place for the Gunpowder Plot, and the sad case of Spencer Percival.
We invited our local MP, Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire, Cons.), to visit our campus on the Friday of that week, and he kindly agreed to do so. He has visited us before, and he made a tremendous effort to do so this time in what was a very busy week in Parliament. Newtown Campus was the only school in the area that received him as arranged. Mr Davies met the whole school from Years 3-13 in the main hall, and briefly explained what his duties were as a Member of Parliament, including how voting in Parliament works, why he is sometimes friendly with MPs from other political parties, and how he has been selected to introduce a proposed law next year. After this, Mr Davies opened the floor to questions. The students were well-prepared, and had a wide range of questions of which this is a small selection, with some of the answers:
- Why did you vote against an enquiry into the Iraq War?
- It was a question that included comments he did not agree with, and once that was revised, he did vote in favour
- How well do you know Theresa May?
- It turns out he knows her quite well, and she has campaigned with him in General Elections
- How do you prepare for a speech in Parliament, and is it acceptable to read from a script?
- Always prepare a speech if you have something important to say, but some of the greatest moments in Parliament have come without a script. In fact, MPs will often shout “reading!” at you if you are reading from a prepared script
- To what extent was your victory in the 2010 election a surprise to you?
- A tremendous surprise, to both him (the winner), and Lembit Opik (the loser). They keep in touch to this day as they both have the interests of Montgomeryshire at heart
- Do your political beliefs matter during your day-to-day duties as an MP?
- Not always. There are some MPs whose political views are very different, but if something is worth fighting for, like hospital closures, then party politics don’t always matter
- What is the most significant means of challenging the power of the executive? (Vienna’s rather cheeky A level Government and Politics question!)
- Mr Davies said that Prime Minister’s Question Time is now getting rather silly, and that the best way to hold people to account was in Parliamentary Committees
Mr Davies engaged in lively discussion with the students for an hour, and he was thanked afterwards warmly for honouring his commitment. The students were immaculately turned out as always, and had asked a wide range of thoughtful, challenging questions, a point that Mr Davies impressed upon Mr Smith as he left the school. We hope that the next time Mr Davies visits us he will be able to watch more of the students in action in SDL.