UK Youth Parliament returns to Westminster

John writes for the Buckingham and Winslow Advertiser & Bucks Herald.

Nobody will be oblivious to the appalling terror attacks in Paris earlier this month. My sincere condolences go out to the French people, and others affected by the recent spate of senseless, inhuman attacks on innocent people. My thoughts are with the survivors and the families of the victims.

Alongside its horror, however, Friday 13th also brought hope for the future in the form of members of the UK Youth Parliament (UKYP) whom I welcomed to Westminster for their annual sitting in the House of Commons. The UKYP seeks actively to engage young people in politics and gives them an opportunity to stand for election in their local area, and use their elected voice to bring about social change.

This year, it was my honour to preside over the debates for the seventh year running. However, when the proposal to allow the UKYP to sit in the Commons was first mooted, there was – unbelievably, you might think – significant opposition to the idea. One particular Member, who has since retired, put it to me in a spluttering rage that if the UKYP were allowed to sit in the Commons, disastrous consequences would occur. My colleague was particularly concerned about the pieces of chewing gum which were sure to be strewn around the Chamber, as well as the inevitable and damaging use of penknives on his beloved green benches. I explained to the Honourable gentleman that I considered his remarks to be an appalling calumny against the young people who would be proud to come, speak effectively and behave at least as well as we do. I was right on all three counts.

It is my view that allowing MYPs to debate at the heart of our democracy is extremely important. This year, as always, MYPs spoke with inimitable eloquence and confidence. I am pleased to report that all present conducted themselves admirably and, as far as I am aware, no penknives were used.

I greatly look forward to welcoming MYPs back to Parliament in 2016. The future of our democracy is in very safe hands.