On Monday 28th April we took a small party of members on a trip to London to visit the House of Commons. The event was opened to all members a few months ago and due to the nature of the tour a small group of 7 people were able to attend. We started the day with a pleasant Train Journey from Warwick Parkway to London, Richard Hales our chairman had made all the arrangements including the travel plans, we all arrived at the station and accepted the tickets Richard handed out, drank our coffee and chatted until the train arrived.
We boarded the train and were all chatting quite happily until the inevitable ‘tickets please’ announcement, we all delved into our pockets to hand over the relevant ticket when we spotted the dreadful words…. super off peak saver… The guard took one look at our tickets and said, you shouldn’t be on this train, Richard paled significantly but was adamant that he had booked the alotted time train when booking so surely this was ok, The guard was not so convinced and the dreadful words ‘it will cost £100 per person’ and ‘there are no more stops til London’ circulated… Richard asked for a few minutes to check through his details. The rest of us chatted again while Richard busied himself with the search for the booking details, a few minutes passed when low and behold there was the crucial piece of paper stating clearly for all the world to see that yes we had been able to book onto this train for the off peak super saver rate, relief all round! The guard was found and advised and simply said that we would have to explain at the gate when we got off then… The remainder of the journey passed without incident and our arrival at Marylebone was slightly aprehensive when we approached the gate, Richard explained the situation, showed the booking and was met with ‘ah yes there were two days when the train line had put the wrong tickets live so you are fine, just very lucky!’ Phew and on we went.
We arrived at the House of Commons and following the obligatory picture with Big Ben we then headed through security, all very uneventful… we arrived in Westminster Hall and were asked to wait for our guides to arrive so we spent some time admiring the architecture and plaques commemorating important occasions including speeches from Nelson Mandela and Barrack Obama, and also in memory of those who have lain in state there. We were surrounded by groups of school children all who seemed as in awe of the impressive building as we were.
We were then met by Ravi and Caroline, both of whom work for Jeremy Wright our MP and they chatted with us before beginning the tour, we had one last chance for a picture as cameras are not allowed to be used in the rest of the Palace
We were led through the full tour starting at the entrance the Queen arrives by for the State Opening of Parliament, through her opulent Robing Rooms where she dresses for the occasion, a chance to try and spot the hidden bathroom door and then on through to the Royal Gallery, the Lords Chamber the last point the Queen will reach in the building, Central Lobby, Members Lobby, and the Commons Chamber. We all commented on how small both Chambers were compared to how they appear on the television. Our guides kept us well informed with many facts and in turn were put through their paces with our many questions! We ended the tour back in Westminster Hall were Ravi and Caroline had to head back to work while we were invited to wait for Jeremy Wright in the cafe before he would take us to lunch in the dining room.
It then became apparent that Caroline had been quizzing Richard our Chairman about each of the attendees, and their backgrounds and also what we were here to ask Jeremy about (we just wanted a day out didn’t seem to be the answer they expected), we had our coffee and discussed the various items we wanted to discuss with our MP over lunch, Jeremy then arrived and off we went to the rather grand dining room with beautiful views across the River Thames, much pondering over the menu and a short deliberation over water or wine followed before we all ordered and settled down to the matter in hand, quizzing our MP. The answers to all our questions were answered with thought and apparent honesty. We discussed the Local Plan, possible new locations for the school, the land available for new business within the local plan, how to encourage more young people to vote, the realities of being a Minister, the hours and pressures then, once we had all eaten Jeremy was whisked away by his whip for some urgent deliberation, so we took the opportunity to prepare for the hot issue of the day HS2. There happened to be a second reading and vote regarding the HS2 Bill that afternoon and we were all curious to know how our MP was going to vote, when Jeremy returned we openly asked about it and the process moving forwards, the response was again honest and down to earth with him admitting that he was going to abstain as if he were to vote no he would be out of a job and therefore his best option was to abstain. He stated that there was no doubt that the bill would be passed and then it will be given to a small committee to investigate and respond to all the protests against it, this process will take approximately 2 years before the bill is returned to parliament for a final vote where Jeremy will then make his decision.
The time had come for work to recommence and before he left Jeremy managed to get us tickets for the public gallery so we could listen to some of the current debates, as we left the dining room we were just in time to see the speaker passing through the main lobby and then we weaved our way up the never ending staircase to the gallery to observe the first session of the afternoon. As we had to make sure we didn’t miss our pre-booked train home and get into any more discussions with the guards we couldn’t stay long, but the chance to see a few minutes of something you usually only catch glimpses of on television was a wonderful way to end the day. We then hot footed it back to Marylebone in time to catch our train home and chat over the day. All in all our members seemed to thoroughly enjoy the day out and we will be making arrangements for another group to attend again later in the year. If this would be of interest then please contact Richard on 01926 857000.