Visit to the Houses of Parliament 14th May 2009

Report by Sandra

photo of doorway Houses of Parliament"Of course you can visit the Houses of Parliament you know" said a friend over coffee cake one morning. My mother in law had been one of the first to go on a public tour one summer. I'd never given it much thought but then my friend went on to describe a visit she had made recently. It sounded good. So after looking on the Parliament website I realised that you could also do workshops.

About five months after that conversation (these workshops were popular) the day arrived. Around 25 parents and children met outside Parliament at Portcullis House. The Palace of Westminster is one of Britain's icons-very recognisable. Portcullis House is the latest part. A modern glass and steel structure that doesn't match the rest of the building. We went inside, through strict, airport style security where we were collected by two members of staff and escorted to the Education room.

We were booked to attend 'Parliament Explained' a workshop which showed how the three parts of Parliament, Lords, Commons and Monarchy worked together to produce laws to govern the land.

A power point presentation followed then the children got to debate a motion. They chose 'Should Capitol punishment be re-instated for murder ?' - just a light weight topic then! Acting as MPs the children addressed the 'Speaker' and later voted on the motion. The debate was continued in the Lords and again voted upon - it wasn't passed. At the end of the workshop our local MP Anne Milton came in for a Q&A session. One confident child even asked Anne for her opinions on Home Education!

photo of CommonsAfter that we went on our tour of the Houses of Parliament. The guides keep to a strict timetable so you have to be prepared to run-and the palace is vast.

Pausing briefly at the door to Big Ben's tower before rushing on up countless stairs to the House of Commons chamber. After handing over all our possessions we went and sat in the public gallery and watched the debate taking place. After that we were whisked off to Central Lobby. You would come here if you wanted to 'lobby' your MP about something (or indeed lob something at your MP)

Then onto the house of Lords where again we sat and watched the debate for a while. Then it was St Stephens Hall, a former chapel finishing up in Westminster Hall - the oldest part of the palace. Westminster Hall is the only part of the palace where photography is permitted and was built by William Rufus, son of William the Conqueror.

So there you have it, footsore and weary we made our way home. The Houses of Parliament are an amazing place, well worth a visit or even several visits and there is something very satisfying about walking about the place that appears daily on your TV screen.

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