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Parliament Week

Volume 534: debated on Thursday 3 November 2011

3. What steps he has taken in support of the Parliament week initiative; and if he will make a statement. (78163)

5. What steps he has taken in support of the Parliament week initiative; and if he will make a statement. (78165)

I pay tribute to all hon. Members and staff of the House who are contributing to the excellent array of events in Parliament week. As part of that, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will meet members of the UK Youth Parliament, and will speak at the beginning of its debate in this place tomorrow.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, and associate myself with his remarks about congratulating all the staff involved in making the events possible. Parliament week is a fantastic initiative, with events around the UK, the BBC’s “Question Time” in Westminster Hall, and the excellent UK Youth Parliament debate here tomorrow. What does my hon. Friend think can be done to extend the spirit of Parliament week in promoting democratic engagement to the other 51 weeks of the year?

I commend my hon. Friend for her contribution; I understand that she took part in a young people’s “Question Time” event on Monday evening before an audience of more than 200. That was excellent. Engagement with the public, particularly with young people, is extremely important. The programme takes place not just in this place in Westminster; the whole point is to take that engagement out to the country, using a variety of methods. My hon. Friend makes a very good point that it should not be just for one week a year. We must make sure that the general public understand what the House is for, and how they can engage with it. We are determined to make that a reality every week of the year.

Following on from what the Deputy Leader of the House has said, as part of Parliament week I gave a tour of Parliament for sixth-formers from Landeau Forte college this week, and next week I will see students from Rawlett college. What can the Government do every week of the year to make sure that students learn more in schools about our Parliament and its history, so that they are more engaged with Parliament and the democratic process?

I commend the hon. Gentleman for his involvement with young people. As I said, we must build on the extremely good work being done by the Department for Education, the education services in the House and others to make that a reality. A variety of things are happening that may engage the interest of young people. For example, there is even a parliamentary week app for tablets. I have downloaded it, and it is very good. The only drawback is that for some obscure reason, it has a 12-plus rating on the grounds of mild or occasional sexual content, nudity, fantasy violence, alcohol and drug abuse, profanities and crude humour—all of which are far from the normal life of hon. Members.

I took the opportunity to write to all the schools in my constituency to inform them about Parliament week and the excellent resources that were available to them. As a result, I was at a school last Friday and I will be visiting another school tomorrow. Does the Deputy Leader of the House know how many hon. Members have actively taken part in promoting and attending Parliament week events? How will he encourage those who have not participated on this occasion, to make sure that they do so next year?

The honest answer is that I do not know how many hon. Members have taken part, but from speaking to colleagues around the House, it seems that a significant number have done so. Those who have not done so have missed an opportunity, and let us hope that they will do so at different stages, not only during Parliament week next year but throughout the year, as the hon. Lady suggests.

The promotion of Parliament is of course a noble cause. However, does the Leader of the House agree that the continuation of allowing Members who do not take their seats in this place to claim expenses from this place, to claim offices in this place, and to claim salaries from this place is a scar on Parliament? When is he going to bring a comprehensive statement to this House—

Order. I have allowed the hon. Gentleman to place his thoughts on the record on that very important matter, but unfortunately it does not relate to Parliament week, and therefore we will have to leave it there for today.