From the red benches around 220 students, aged 15-18 years old, from state schools and colleges across the UK will have their say on what the Lords is for and options for reform of the House in the debate ‘Elect, Select or Reject: the Future of the House of Lords.’
The fourth annual youth event in the House of Lords chamber, the debate builds on the English Speaking Union debating finals in 2007, the UK Youth Parliament debates in 2008 and the flagship event for the leadership and community day of Shine week 2009, the Department for Children, Schools and Families’ national youth festival celebrating talent in young people.
It’s the latest event in what has been a busy year for the House of Lords outreach programme that aims to raise awareness of the role of the Lords and how the public can influence its work.
Elected, appointed, hybrid or abolition
From the despatch boxes four core teams of students will set out the options for Lords reform: fully elected; fully appointed; hybrid; or abolition.
The House of Lords has been working with the social enterprise Debate Mate to train team members – 10 students per team, in developing the case for each option. Team members have also been mentored by Lord Elder, Baroness Massey of Darwen, Lord Norton of Louth and Baroness Quin, who have provided support defining arguments, refining positions and fine tuning debate.
‘Members talk about reform of the Lords endlessly’, the Lord Speaker Baroness Hayman said in a workshop at the House of Lords to help the core teams prepare for the big day on 1 December. But the future of Westminster is not something that only parliamentarians should be debating, Baroness Hayman continued, ‘These are important questions that all people should consider.’
The Lord Speaker will chair the debate. One member from each of the core teams will move their reform options speaking for five minutes. During these opening remarks, no points of information or interjections will be made. After the opening speeches, the Lord Speaker will invite comments from the student audience. These comments will be a maximum of two minutes each.
After the speeches from the audience, the Lord Speaker will invite a different speaker from each of the four teams to deliver five minute summary speeches, which will re-state the arguments in favour of their option incorporating ideas that were made from the audience.
Once the summary speeches are complete, the Lord Speaker will call for members of the audience to vote on the option which should be taken forward.
The votes will be counted and the results announced.
‘You must make a strong case for your own option, but know the strengths and weaknesses of all the others,’ Lord Elder advised his team, St Saviour’s and St Olave’s School in Southwark – abolition.
The Lord Speaker reminded the students that politics is wider than Parliament and all had experience in their families, on their school councils and in their communities: ‘It’s about how you solve problems by discussing and debating and coming to a conclusion about priorities.’
With these words ringing in their ears, the students returned to their schools to prepare. Whether the Members of the Lords leave the House, the students will decide on Friday 10 December from 3pm.
Image: Kingsford Community School, Newham, London, mentored by Baroness Quin – fully elected option. Parliamentary copyright