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Meet our graduates

Hear from people who have participated on the Fast Stream Programme about their experiences working in the House of Commons and House of Lords.

Medha Bhasin

Medha Bhasin, second year, House of Commons

What you did before joining the House of Commons?

I was studying for a Masters in Public Policy. Before that I worked for the European Parliament's Development Committee secretariat in Brussels as a trainee researcher and adviser.

What roles have you had in the House of Commons?

I am currently the second clerk on the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC). EAC is a House of Commons select committee that scrutinises the Government’s environmental and sustainable development policy. As second clerk, I write briefings for evidence sessions, help organise the Committee’s agenda, write inquiry reports, deputise in managing the secretariat team, and manage relations between the secretariat and Chair of the Committee. Other than that, being on the graduate programme means you have other responsibilities and training opportunities beyond your formal work title, for example I am on division duty once a week, where I help count votes and produce the formal record of the proceedings that have occurred in the House of Commons Chamber that day.

What do you enjoy most about working in the House of Commons?

The variety and dynamism that comes with working in the House of Commons. Every day is different, you must be flexible to the changing political agenda, and the exposure to interesting, thought-provoking and challenging work is incredible. It is also such privilege to be so close to the heart of British politics, you get to be in the room where important decisions that affect British political life are being made and you actively collaborate and work with MPs on a daily basis. The environment provokes a steep learning curve which is exciting and pushes you to continuously improve.

What has surprised you most about working here?

The level of access and responsibility you are given from day one. From the moment I started working at the House I was briefing MPs, managing my own inquiry and advising on parliamentary proceedings. Three years into the programme, this has not changed and as you progress through the scheme you are trusted to take on more responsibility and have greater ownership over your work.

Michael Berry

Michael Berry, second year, House of Lords

What roles have you had in the House of Lords?

I began by shadowing and supporting several select committees, including the Economic Affairs Committee. This well-respected committee was a fascinating introduction to the work of the House. At the time, the committee included two former Chancellors of the Exchequer.

My next role was as a Legislation Clerk in the Public Bill Office. The Public Bill Office provides a key function of the House by drafting amendments to legislation and Private Members’ Bills for members. I led on the drafting of Private Members’ Bills and contributed to the day-to-day drafting of amendments, providing procedural advice to members, and working with colleagues in the Commons to administer the passage of legislation.

I am now the Clerk to the special inquiry on a National Plan for Sport and Recreation. A special inquiry is a select committee established to report on a particular topic. I work closely with the Policy Analyst and Committee Assistant to coordinate and support the work of the committee. This includes briefing the Chair, organising and inviting witnesses to evidence sessions, analysing written evidence and working with the Press Office to deliver the communications strategy. Once we have concluded our evidence sessions, we will produce the report which will make recommendations on the topic to the Government.

What do you enjoy most about working in the House of Lords?

As someone who studied Politics, having the opportunity to explore Parliament, watch debates and work closely with politicians is something I really enjoy and find rewarding. There is also a variety of roles which provide the opportunity to support the work of the House and get a ring-side seat to the Parliamentary action. I know that the work of the House of Lords can influence policy by holding government and organisations to account, whilst galvanising media interest and debate in policy issues.

What has surprised you most about working here?

One thing that has surprised me is how supportive my colleagues are and the continued focus on my development. There are people from a variety of backgrounds in the Administration which make it a warm and fun place to work.

The programme gives you a significant amount of responsibility. Although there are high expectations, you are in a supportive environment with plenty of training opportunities, including seminars on various topics including Parliamentary procedure. I have quickly come to realise how much there is to learn about the institutions of the House of Lords and Parliament. If you are interested in politics and governance, I cannot think of a more interesting opportunity.

Ellen Watson

Ellen Watson, second year, House of Commons

What roles have you had in the House of Commons?

I have worked for the Work and Pensions Committee, the Science and Technology Committee and am about to begin a new role with the Justice Committee.

Select Committees are groups of MPs which scrutinise Government departments’ policies and expenditure. Committees usually conduct scrutiny through inquiries (investigations) into specific policies or decisions. Throughout the inquiry process the Committee gathers written and oral evidence on the policy area concerned and uses this evidence to make recommendations to Government to address any issues identified and improve policy.

The Committee staff support the Committee by managing its inquiries, including scoping out the inquiry, providing briefings for Committee members, organising witnesses to give evidence, and drafting correspondence and reports on the Committee’s behalf. Throughout, Committee staff advise the Committee Chair and Committee members on the intricacies of the policy area, inquiry structures and inquiry outcomes.

During my time with the Work and Pensions Committee, I worked on inquiries into the assessment process for disability benefits, assistive technology for disabled people in work, and managed an inquiry into Universal Credit and domestic abuse.

On the Science and Technology Committee I worked with the team to facilitate a high-profile inquiry into the Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which focussed on areas of policy including testing, vaccines and treatments and social distancing. I also ran an inquiry into the roll-out of 5G in the UK, which considered the role of Huawei in the UK network and how the network could be diversified to reduce reliance on high risk vendors.

What do you enjoy most about working in the House of Commons?

I love working at the heart of politics. As a clerk you have a key role supporting Parliament to carry out its democratic functions and effectively scrutinise and hold the Government to account. There is no better feeling than when you have supported a Committee to uncover crucial evidence, or when you have carried out tasks that enable members to scrutinise the Government within the House of Commons chamber.

The job is also incredibly varied. During my short time in the House, I have had roles scrutinising policy areas from across Government – from disability benefits to telecommunications. I also really enjoy building up specialist knowledge and using this knowledge to offer advice to a wide variety of MPs on a regular basis

What has surprised you most about working here?

I was surprised by how quickly I was able to work directly with the Committee and Chair and help inform the Committee’s work and direction.

At first House of Commons procedure seems incredibly complex and the idea of quickly learning new policy areas such as science policy feels really daunting. However, the work environment is incredibly supportive, and it was surprising how quickly you can work with colleagues to build this knowledge, and hit the ground running

Olivia Crabtree

Olivia Crabtree, third year, House of Lords

What did you do before joining the House of Lords?

I joined the House of Lords Administration in September 2018, after graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations.

What roles have you had in the House of Lords?

Since I joined, I've been working on the Select Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision. I started by shadowing the Clerk of the Committee but have recently been made the Clerk myself. This means that I have responsibility for supporting the Committee and making sure we deliver a high-quality service. On any one day I might be checking over press releases and coordinating a media strategy with the Press Office, briefing the Committee Chairman (the Member of the House of Lords who leads the Committee) on the week ahead, planning future evidence sessions and inviting witnesses to attend, or analysing evidence the Committee has received. Along with the Committee's Policy Analyst, I also take responsibility for writing the Committee's report, which makes recommendations to the Government. This variety in the work is what I enjoy the most about working in the House of Lords.

What has surprised you most about working here?

What has most surprised me is the dedication and support of my colleagues. There are many people in the office who have passed through the graduate programme, so there's always someone to talk to who has been through a similar experience. Every Friday afternoon we have our ‘Friday Afternoon Meeting' (FAM for short) where an interesting speaker comes and gives a one hour talk and we all share food and drinks. It's an incredibly welcoming and friendly office and I've made some real friends here.

The programme is fast-paced and relentlessly interesting. There is a real focus on developing interpersonal and managerial skills, practising policy analysis and learning about the procedures of Parliament. We've already started our procedural training, and it's a fantastic way to be connected to the workings of the Chamber, whilst working day-to-day on a Committee. As part of the programme, there are also opportunities to work in some of the more procedurally-focussed departments in the Administration, which I'm really looking forward to. I would highly recommend applying for the programme if you're interested in politics, current affairs and the workings of Parliament - you won't regret it!