Sam Mountney, a 2nd year student in POLSIS shares his experiences from a recent visit to Westminster.
It isn't just the grand architecture or it being the decision making powerhouse of the United Kingdom that drew me, once again, on my mission to Westminster. The teachings of lecturers and seminar tutors are invaluable in most instances, but when trying to iron out the inconsistencies in my own knowledge about the processes and formalities of the oldest parliamentary democracy in the world, only first-hand experience would do.
Entering the corridors of power through portcullis house, I was immediately immersed in the buzz and energy of the place, I met with my contact and entered the palace down a tube escalator, all very James Bond-esque.
Enough of the comparatives and colloquialisms, I was here at the House on the invitation of the member for Aldridge and Brownhills, Sir Richard Shepherd, a long serving MP who holds a rebellious reputation within the Conservative party. He is of interest to me for his renowned effectiveness at representing the views of his constituents and open opposition to the stance of his own party on certain issues as a result. Having been refreshed and formalities attended to, my first port of call was a public administration select committee hearing, the witness was Lord Heseltine speaking on and being questioned about the implications of his report, strategic thinking in government.
As a public witness it was a lively and highly relevant debate to be a spectator of, the need for increased efficiencies within departments is of optimum importance during a time of such austerity. Lord Heseltine and the cross-party peers questioning demonstrated the effectiveness of the select committee format and in a surprise turn of events i was able to see application of some of his suggestions in the Autumn statement presented by the chancellor shortly after.
I must give due credit at this point to Peter Vines, Richard Shepherds parliamentary assistant, through being the driving force behind a varied and busy itinerary he enabled me to see the variety of processes within and the day-to-day life of Westminster. I was fortunate enough to gain a viewing gallery position for PMQs, a personal pleasure as well as a key role of parliament keeping a check on the executive, and the subsequent treading of the Autumn statement to the House. As I mentioned earlier, seeing a direct policy correlation between parts of Lord Heseltines report, that were scrutinised in the Select Committee hearing that morning and it manifesting itself in parts of the autumn statement was a perfect cyclical example of how Westminster operates.
To round off my visit I attended Westminster Hall for a debate of the same name, the Westminster hall debate though without formal legislating or amending powers, performs a vital role of highlighting topics of members concern for debate and consideration by the house. The topic was the need to support local newspapers and the benefits of such publications to society, the cross party debate was chaired by Jim Hood MP and enjoyed lively debate between members.
All in all this was a fantastic insight into the inner workings of Parliament, though brief, the varied itinerary and complete immersion in the various functions was invaluable in understanding the Westminster system.