Examination of Witnesses (Questions 171
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
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
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.