The unfamiliar time of 5 am bustled me, and other weary students, into school, making sure we would arrive at the distant location of London without meeting too much early morning traffic on the way. A coach full of Beacon Hill Academy students began to make its way to London, which, after everyone had properly woken-up, was filled with the noise of excited, exuberant, ebullient students eager to arrive at their destination- the Houses of Parliament, the birth place of democracy.

A glimpse of the Houses of Parliament were first saw as we were in the coach and immediately everyone’s phones were whipped out to take a photo. (However, this was quite an unnecessary step because 10 minutes later, we were staring face to face at the historical building)! The ornate detail on this renowned piece of architecture astounded us as we entered this colossal time-machine, first going into a hall which was thought to be where King Henry VIII played tennis. Our tour began and as we progressed through each hall, the design and layout would change slightly to suit the era in which it was built. Blackened parts of the walls in the older parts of Parliament were caused by accidental fires and some dents in the walls are thought to be caused by different monarchs playing games in the huge halls; every detail revealed a piece of history within Parliament.

After taking the Queen’s route around Parliament, we entered the House of Commons chamber, where up to 650 elected Members of Parliament legislate, discuss issues and represent their constituents in all sorts of matters. Although we could not sit down on the seats in the House of Commons, we could see that, when 650 MPs are sitting in this chamber, it would be very cramped! On the green carpet in this chamber are two red lines running down the hall, which we were told were exactly two sword lengths apart, showing how in the past, people would brutally fight each other to decide the rules, but now, we have ‘lain down our swords’ and negotiate verbally.

Following tradition, any votes taken are all done by hand, not through technology. Unlike some other countries, we have decided to not take votes via technology and kept to tradition which is surprising because we live in such a technology dominated world. Before going to the House of Lords, we all had the opportunity to experience how MPs vote and, have voted, for hundreds of years.

As soon as we entered the House of Lords, we were bedazzled by the area where the Royal Family would be seated which was made from twenty-three and a half carat gold! This chamber is slightly bigger than the House of Commons, and so far there are around 760 appointed members. The House of Lords is the second chamber of the UK Parliament. It is independent from, and complements the work of, the elected House of Commons. The Lords share the task of making and shaping laws and checking and challenging the work of the government.
Our local MP for Dudley North, Ian Austin, took the time to do a question and answer session in the Houses of Parliament, where we could ask him any questions about decisions made in the Houses of Parliament and suggest ways we thought would improve Dudley. We would like to thank Ian Austin for the time he gave to doing this session; we all found it very useful and interesting.

Overall, I found the day truly inspiring, not only because the day enabled us to understand more how democracy works but also because it coincided with the week our Queen celebrated her 90th birthday. It was a really enjoyable day that I will not forget.

Caitlin Hoyland