Commonwealth youth parliamentarians meet at Westminster
Members of the United Kingdom’s House of Commons and House of Lords sat together on the red benches of the House of Lords to listen to speeches made by delegates to the Fourth Commonwealth Youth Parliament, held in London on 6-10 September. Michael Bendall, a final-year law and commerce student at the University of Canterbury, represented New Zealand at the youth parliament. He joined more than a hundred young people from throughout the Commonwealth at the event, which was organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
Delegates were divided into parties of a mock country, “Commonwealthland”. Michael was elected Deputy Leader of the Opposition. His personal highlight was the debate in the House of Lords, presided over by the new Lord Speaker, Baroness D’Souza. Delegates debated the motion “That Commonwealthland will cut greenhouse emissions by 100% by the year 2050”. Michael told the House that global warming was one of the greatest challenges facing his generation, and that if Commonwealthland did not set significant but realistic targets for reducing greenhouse emissions, it would be future generations who would be put at most risk. After 90 minutes of intense discussion, the motion was carried comfortably.
Delegates also participated in question time and select committees, a debate on the Speech from the Throne, and a committee of the whole House, ensuring they had a wide range of experience of how parliament works and, in particular, the process of passing legislation. The Rt Hon John Bercow MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons, presided over question time.
Michael says his experience at the youth parliament assisted greatly in his understanding of parliamentary processes.