UK Parliament Week 2019: find out what it's like to visit!

Written by Ayushi Bhat

From 2 to 8 November it is UK Parliament Week for 2019, during which the UK Parliament aims to foster closer engagement with the public through various programmes and improve awareness and understanding in the public about how Parliament impacts them.

During October half-term, I was lucky enough to go on a Parliament tour and gain an insight into how thousands of decisions are made for our country - in the exact place they are made! It was a valuable experience to understand how Parliament runs and why it is so crucial in our everyday lives.

At the start of the tour we were introduced to our guide and started the tour in the lobby of Westminster Hall, which has a rich history of 900 years. This is where the BBC reports from when significant events are happening in Parliament! Walking through different corridors which lead to numerous destinations was fascinating, especially when we walked on the steps of the Peers in the House of Lords and the ministers in the House of Commons.

The House of Lords consists of 800 eligible members who are not elected but are appointed by the Queen with the advice of the Prime Minister. Some non-party-political members are recommended by an independent body, the House of Lords Appointments Commission. These Lords have successful careers in business, culture, science, sports, academia, law, education, health and public service. They bring this knowledge to their role of examining matters of public interest that affect all UK citizens. An example of a current Lord is Lord Alan Sugar, whom many of you may know from The Apprentice. We were fortunate enough to view the hall, decorated in red with gold trimmings, where many debates and discussions are held.

The House of Commons, decorated in green, consists of 650 members who are elected by the UK public. Members of the Commons, known as MPs, debate political issues of the day and proposals for new laws. It is one of the key places where government ministers, like the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, and the principal figures of the main political parties work. The Commons is in control of making decisions on many “bills”, for example proposed new taxes. These bills can be considered by Lords, but they are unable to block or amend them. In this House, regular debates and discussions take place, which can often get heated! Most recently, Boris Johnson’s pledge for Brexit and his opinions on the matter were expressed and debated in the Commons’ hall. And I was able to view this place!

The tour continued behind these halls, with the guide narrating further information about the history and workings of our Parliament, and even some inside gossip!

I would most definitely recommend going on a tour around Parliament, not only to understand the part Parliament plays in all of our lives here in the UK, and whether politics is of interest to you or not - it's also an opportunity to see one of the most historic buildings in the Palace of Westminster.

Get informed, get empowered and you can make a difference.

— UK Parliament

To find out more about the tours you can take and how to book on one, check out the UK Parliament website here.

Have you visited Parliament before? Are your unit taking part in UK Parliament Week this year? Tell us what you think and what you're up to on Facebook and Instagram.

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