Are the Lords listening? Creating connections between people and Parliament - Information Committee Contents


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 171 - 179)

WEDNESDAY 29 APRIL 2009

Dina Chowdhury, Mr Haysam Agabani, Mr Majid Aljassas, Mr Mahmoud Hassan and Mr Jake Ross

  Chairman: Finally Quintin Kynaston School. Thank you very much. You have come the least distance so that perhaps was one reason for having you come last. You will have heard the other answers and the sort of questions we are asking. We really do thank you very much indeed. As I said before, if at the end you think of something you have not said that you wish you had then do not hesitate to write in. To handle the questions for the next few minutes I am going to hand you over to Lord Erroll.

  Q171  Earl of Erroll: You have heard really all the questions already. One of the things that interests me is the communication issue and perception. How long do you think that it takes things to get through Parliament? I was very interested by the comment that it takes a long time. Have you any feel for how long it does take?

  Mr Hassan: A few months.

  Ms Chowdhury: Probably about a year for it to go through.

  Q172  Earl of Erroll: So we have a year down to two or three months and the answer is somewhere between four and six months on average, from a bill hitting one end of Parliament and going through to the other. It has to be done when Parliament is changed in November each year. The bills would fail and have to restart if they were that long. The only reason for saying that is that it is interesting to see the public perception. Actually the delays are all over the place sometimes before it gets here. Before you started doing this did you follow at all what Parliament did? Were you interested at all? There you are in Westminster; did this engage you?

  Mr Hassan: Generally just because we are in Westminster does not mean that we are more engaged in Parliament. I have not really felt that much of a difference coming from a school in Westminster.

  Q173  Earl of Erroll: Did you feel no greater interest?

  Mr Hassan: I am a politics student so I was quite interested today being at Parliament, watching what was going on. Generally if you are really interested in politics then, yes, but to be interested in it there is nothing that really brings you up to it and until I picked it as a subject I had no clue what was going on. There is nothing that really appeals to you. It is just generally old, white, middle-class men and the Lords are upper class. There is no ethnicity or anything like that. There is nothing that really appeals to you.

  Q174  Earl of Erroll: Do you still feel that?

  Mr Hassan: Kind of, yes.

  Q175  Earl of Erroll: What do you feel about it? Did it interest you and does the fact that you were in Westminster make it more interesting?

  Ms Chowdhury: I have been brought up in Westminster since I was born. I have not actually felt close to it but knowing that Parliament is literally round the corner it has brought it to my knowledge, and seeing it on the news every day. Until I was actually studying it I do not think I have ever known how important it is and what the job is of Lords and peers et cetera. I think in some sense it is, but not really.

  Mr Agabani: Having a school in Westminster you would think that because of the short distance there would be more opportunities to meet Members of Parliament and Lords, but I do not think it is any different. I grew up in Hackney and then moved to Westminster and I did not feel any change, to be honest. I feel now that there is an opportunity there which is not being taken advantage of.

  Mr Ross: I recently moved schools to Westminster and I think young people have other things on their minds. I think their perception of people in Parliament is that they think they know young people but they do not really know what actually happens in their lives. I think young people have other things that they see as more important to deal with other than listening or watching people that seem to not really know what our lives are like.

  Mr Aljassas: I am with Jake's point. The fact is Westminster and Parliament, it looks like it anyway, they are too tied up in Westminster Parliament not in Westminster itself. There is no interaction with the rest of Westminster.

  Q176  Earl of Erroll: Now you have seen a bit more of it and taken an interest in it, does the language and the way we do things ceremonially put you off, the question I asked the previous group?

  Mr Agabani: I think it is a bit of a barrier to get over. If you are not doing politics then maybe some of the terms used create a bit of a barrier to understanding. They are such small things if maybe they could just be taught more generally other than just politics it would make it much more accessible.

  Q177  Earl of Erroll: Do you think that we should change our language and the way we do things or we should teach people?

  Mr Aljassas: I believe people should be taught more because education on politics and government in this country is very limited, I feel, because we have to be at AS level just to enter it. I believe that it should be taught to a younger age.

  Q178  Earl of Erroll: Where do you think that teaching should come from? Should we try and do more work going out to schools?

  Mr Aljassas: Yes.

  Q179  Earl of Erroll: Or do you think your teachers would be able to do it?

  Mr Ross: I think it is both. I think it should be taught at GCSE but if you can get more speakers like yourself or MPs to come into schools in Westminster people's awareness and their interest in politics would grow.

  Ms Chowdhury: I have worked with the Parliamentary Education Service here during work experience and I found it a great example of something which all students should be able to do. When working with them we had children coming in from primary schools and secondary schools and learning more about how the House of Lords works, how the House of Commons works and how we should portray our thoughts. To be honest, I think loads of schools did have the opportunity to come in but probably not every school. If every school were to have the opportunity to come in or have some sort of education, that kind of education, it would be helpful and everyone would understand how it is. If they learn at primary level it is not as important because they do not want to but then secondary students I think definitely should be able to have some sense of what is going on. It should be before AS level so they can choose whether they want to or do not want to learn about it or go further.


 
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