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On Monday 4th March, the St Mary’s A Level Politics class set out to Westminster for a tour of the Houses of Parliament and the opportunity to interview Lord Kinnoull about the inner workings of the UK’s political system. We are indebted to Lord Kinnoull for giving us his valuable time to take us on an ‘insider’s’ tour of the chambers, libraries, lobby areas and committee rooms that make up the Palace of Westminster. As we explored these historic corridors and debating chambers, Lord Kinnoull offered invaluable insights and anecdotes that covered significant parliamentarians both past and present. 

The students were given the opportunity to take part in a mock parliamentary committee session, in a genuine committee room, with Lord Kinnoull as their witness for 60 minutes of robust questions. The girls asked questions that covered everything from the role of a Lord, the need for constitutional reform, the systems for party political patronage and discipline, to the gender make up of the second chamber. Lord Kinnoull answered every question in depth, offering the students a deep insight into the mechanics of our parliamentary system.

The committee session was followed by lunch in Portcullis House, on a table next to the ex-Chancellor Sajid Javid, before the students had the opportunity to watch the Lords ask government ministers questions. It was fascinating to watch a range of issues be discussed, from the need to protect women from domestic violence, to government action to address population growth, to extending visas for Ukrainian refugees, to the Post Office Horizon scandal.

From this fascinating session, the girls were also able to speak to Mrs Handy’s former student, Jack Hanson, about his role as a Private Secretary to another Lord and explore different jobs within Parliament. Such a personal insight from someone starting an exciting career in the Westminster corridors of power was truly inspiring. Finally, the students got to visit the gift shops to gain souvenirs of an enlightening day in the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ before a seizing a photo opportunity beneath the 800 year old roof of Westminster Hall and then the journey home to Calne.

Mr Adrian Stoten, History and Politics Teacher