Reports from two work experience students who spent a week at my office

June 25, 2015

Being given an opportunity such as this has motivated me to pursue a career in the field of politics or international relations. Prior to the placement I was somewhat undecided as to what I wanted to do in the future. However, having been able to work with people as well-informed as Sir Oliver Heald MP and all of his wonderful staff I have developed a much clearer insight into a world that I already found interesting.

My highlight of the week was definitely Prime Minister’s Questions on the Wednesday. It is such a renowned event, and this was clear to see from the large queue that had formed prior to session. I found the experience both insightful and educational – being in such close proximity to David Cameron himself, as well as other well-recognised MPs such as Alex Salmond, Ed Miliband, and Boris Johnson was a truly memorable experience. Most people only get to see them on the television. Furthermore, we saw a number of famous faces around Parliamentary Estate, particularly in Portcullis House where we saw Brian May (lead guitarist for Queen).

Overall the experience was truly eye-opening and has definitely been influential in my decision as to what I will do in the future. I would like to say thank you to Sir Oliver Heald MP, and also to Christine, Robert and Mara who have been a great help throughout the week – Callum Goodall

work ex

Working within Parliament has always been an ambition of mine, naturally when the opportunity to do work experience for Sir Oliver arrived I jumped at the chance. This week has certainty not disappointed me and has instead provided me with a personal insight as to how our government is so successful. I’ve been able work alongside researchers, watch debates and see famous faces such as Deborah Meaden.

The part of the week which I particularly enjoyed was watching Prime Minister’s Questions. The Prime Minsters questions was both interesting and humorous, the humour mostly being provided by John Bercow, The Speaker.  Being able to have lunch next to Ed Miliband, sharing a corridor with Alex Salmond and being only a glass panel away from David Cameron was truly unforgettable.

My experience here has been wonderful, I can’t thank Sir Oliver and his staff enough for showing me around and teaching me more about politics. I would like to say a special thank you to Sir Oliver Heald, his wife Christine, Robert and Mara. I would recommend that everyone who is given this opportunity to take it, it’s one of the most rewarding week of my life – Eleanor Sangan

Two blogs from work experience students I have had in my office this week

June 26, 2014

Westminster-20140625-00064 (4)

Cathy O’Sullivan

For my week of work experience I worked in Oliver Heald‘s office at the House of Commons. It was exciting as I had read about it and seen it on television and then I was there in person.

The first thing we did was take a free tour of Parliament and found out lots about the buildings and what happened in them. All the rooms were very impressive and grand. In the office I did filing and other jobs. I saw lots of Select Committees on topics like sham marriages, child mortality and the environment which were very interesting. I really enjoyed seeing the Select Committees as I could relate them to things happening where I live.

The best part of my week was seeing Prime Minister‘s Questions. It was very dramatic as it was just after the verdict on the Andy Coulson trial. I’m glad we got to see it because it was one lots of people wanted to go to. Lots of the MPs got very heated over the topic. There was quite a lot of shouting and pointing which made it quite entertaining. I liked seeing all the politicians I recognised from the news in person and how they reacted to the debates.

On the last day we saw a few debates and a Ministerial statement on the NHS investigations. We saw a variety of different things from the gallery where we had very good seats although they were a bit uncomfortable, we could see everything.

I’m very glad and grateful that I could do my work experience in such a respected place and have so much fun doing it.

Tom Burrows

After the tour of the Palace of Westminster I didn’t think it could get much better. I was wrong.

Tuesday started off with the tour, followed by lunch in Number 1 Parliament Street. After lunch we sat in on the Home Affairs Select Committee on the subject of sham marriages, with some lively discussion over the evidence being given. Certainly made for entertaining viewing!

As if Tuesday hadn’t been exciting enough, we were lucky enough to be able to watch a very heated, thanks to the Andy Coulson case, Prime Minister’s Questions from the gallery followed by lunch on the Terrace on Wednesday. That wasn’t even the last of the excitement! After lunch, along with Oliver, we made our way over to Downing Street, cleared the slightly intimidating security, and were able to hand a petition to Number Ten!

On Thursday we were again very lucky in that were able to watch Jeremy Hunt give his Ministerial Statement on the NHS report into the Jimmy Savile case. In the afternoon we spent some time watching the Grand Committee of the Lords in the Moses Room and also watching a debate from the gallery in the Main Chamber.

As a 6th form student studying politics, the opportunities to see what I have done over the last few days have been invaluable, as well as extremely enjoyable!

I would definitely recommend a few days work experience here at Westminster to anyone with an interest in politics, even if it were to only see the building itself!


Sausages and Select Committees

December 11, 2009

A while ago Christina Farley of Highfield School in Letchworth came for work experience with me in Parliament. It turns out she is also the Political Editor of the school’s newspaper and she has written a fantastic article about her experience, so in good in fact I thought it deserved sharing:

The London Underground on a Monday morning is more like a sardine tin than anything else. Amongst the smart, suited men, obviously well-travelled on the labyrinthine Tube, (but keeping a low profile lest someone should mistake them for bankers) I felt more at home with the overwhelmed tourists, conspicuous by their concerned glances at the Underground map, their alert expressions whenever the station name was read out, and their fearful “what if I miss it” lunges towards the door whenever the train stopped.

The entrance to St. Stephen’s Hall; the hall is now used for major public ceremonies. The bodies of monarchs, consorts and distinguished statesmen also “lie in state” here. These have included Gladstone, King George VI, Sir Winston Churchill and most recently Queen Elizabeth the late Queen Mother.

The entrance to St. Stephen’s Hall; the hall is now used for major public ceremonies. The bodies of monarchs, consorts and distinguished statesmen also “lie in state” here. These have included Gladstone, King George VI, Sir Winston Churchill and most recently Queen Elizabeth the late Queen Mother.

But somehow I made it (thanks Mum!), and at a quarter past nine found myself standing outside the Houses of Parliament, where I would be spending the day at the office of Oliver Heald, Conservative MP for North East Hertfordshire. When I met him at his surgery earlier in the summer, I was surprised to find him approachable and encouraging, saying he was always impressed when meeting Highfield students, and how much he enjoys coming to talk to the Sixth Form each year.
In the Visitor Centre, I was handed a badge with the date and my mug-shot on it, to ensure I couldn’t sneak back the next day. I then made my way to St. Stephen’s Hall, where my tour of the Houses of Parliament would begin. The building is nothing if not impressive. Thick stone walls and ornate decorations lend the place a gothic splendour, yet despite the building itself and the ancient rituals observed within, the winds of change are blowing in Westminster; on the tour, our guide informed us of proposals to make the Lords a fully elected House, which has wider implications for the future, when we will be old enough to vote.

History Fans will be interested to know that St. Stephen’s Hall is also the place where Sir Thomas More was condemned to death.

History Fans will be interested to know that St. Stephen’s Hall is also the place where Sir Thomas More was condemned to death.

Not everything on the tour was serious, however. I can’t possibly complete this account without passing on some of the fascinating trivia that peppered our visit. If you watch BBC Parliament (which, of course, you do) you’ll see that there are red lines in front of each of the benches. When a speech is in progress, MPs must stay behind these lines, which are exactly two sword-lengths apart; this tradition is thought to be the basis for the phrase “to toe the line” and dates back to a time when the Members carried weapons. Debates today are perhaps less dangerous, if not more cordial. Another ceremony from ye olden days (performed since the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, when Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament and the then-King James I) involves the Beefeaters, “bodyguards” to the Queen, performing a traditional search of the cellars beneath the Houses before the state opening of Parliament. To these “factlets”, I can add my own observation; the House of Lords smells of sausages. (At least, it did on the day I visited – I suppose they have to feed those hungry Lords and Baronesses with something).
Having seen The Robing Room (used by the Queen on the day of the state opening of Parliament to don the Imperial state crown and robes), wandered in awe through the red and gold House of Lords, and even had the opportunity to stand at the dispatch box in the House of Commons, and imagine for a minute that I was… it was back to reality and life as a mere intern.

A night-time view of the stunning central atrium at Portcullis House.

A night-time view of the stunning central atrium at Portcullis House.

I was met in St. Stephen’s Hall by Martin, Oliver Heald’s Researcher, before going through the underpass to Portcullis House. If The Palace of Westminster is the stage, then Portcullis House is one of several sets of artists’ dressing rooms, providing accommodation for 210 MPs and their staff. Although incredibly different in style from the Houses of Parliament, the ship-like Portcullis House has a charm all of its own. I couldn’t help but feel relieved, however, that I wasn’t left to find my way to the office alone; the “light oak” walls and doors mean every corridor on every floor looks exactly the same as every other.
After sorting some post in the office, and discovering that Highfield’s very own Sally Etchells was also an intern that day(!) we were taken to the atrium, where Martin explained the “Summary Agenda” – the “order of service” for the day’s Common’s debates – and the lawmaking process (see previous and future editions of the YAP). All this as, much to our excitement, we sat at the next table from Nick Robinson, the BBC’s Political Editor.
Then to lunch, and some absorbing political discussions, before we took our places in the Strangers’ Gallery to watch the afternoon’s debates unfold. Especially recognisable were Chris Huhne, Liberal Democrat MP and participant in the previous week’s controversial Question Time, and John Bercow, the recently-elected Speaker of the House of Commons. The rest of the afternoon was spent in a Parliamentary Select Committee, of which there are many for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. It is their main function to investigate and report on issues in detail; while some look at areas of specific interest to government departments, others carry out separate inquiries.
As we left the Committee, we were greeted by a breathtaking view of Portcullis House at night, the shallow baths in the centre of the atrium reflecting the yellow light from the steel and glass in a slightly Christmassy way. Then it was back on the Tube, tired – very tired – but knowing that today’s experience had been extremely special.

Marie’s blog

November 2, 2009

Last week just for a change, we had a Czech student in for work experience. Take it away Marie Vlckova:

“A week of internship at the House of Parliament had a positive impact on my future professional career.”

Marie Vlckova

Marie Vlckova

First of all, I would like to introduce myself. I am a student of the final year at the English College in Prague and next year I am very keen to study International Relations and Politics at the United Kingdom. My passion for this multifaceted discipline stems from my long term interest in history and constantly changing world we live in.

I have pursued politics in various ways. I have some valuable experience from Czech Republic where I worked at the Security Policy Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and also interned at the Protocol Department at the Ministry of Agriculture.

With a background in Czech politics, I found an internship at the House of Parliament as a unique opportunity to build upon my interest in international policy and compare the Czech and British political perspectives. This work definitely has given me invaluable Parliamentary experience. The research of issues, including the Association of British Insurer’s Savings Manifesto and my attendance at the Work and Pension Committee gave me better insight into British political issues such as security, human rights, economic development and environment. It significantly broadened and deepened my knowledge about certain aspects of the British political system and provided a kind of understanding which is of general use for any person working in national or European public service. Moreover, the opportunity to be present at the debate about bio-fuels and the recycling of fats and oils with Mr. Oliver Heald MP in Westminster Hall helped me to familiarise myself how politicians communicate and it enabled me to improve a number of key skills including debating and critical analysis. I have also looked closely into the Marine and Coastal Access Bill which brought me better understanding of law.

The friendly working team deserve utmost praise. I have to emphasize that the working experience at the House of Parliament with Mr. Oliver Heald MP was priceless and I am very grateful for this chance, because this is a kind of work that I will always be aiming to repeat. From a very practical perspective I consider that this internship greatly prepared me for the political field.

Peter Ashton’s blog

October 20, 2009

Today Peter Ashton finished his short internship in my office. Here he blogs about his experience:

Peter Ashton the intern

Peter Ashton the intern

On Monday 19th October my work experience began with a tour of the Houses of Parliament. I visited both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. In the Lords, I was told by my tour guide the workings and conventions such as where the Lords Spiritual (bishops) sit, why the seats are red and so on. I also enjoyed learning about the functions of the House of Lords, which is now nearly entirely appointed. For example it used to be the case, up until a week ago, that the House of Lords was in fact the highest Court of Appeal in the UK; but this is no longer true with the establishment of our own Supreme Court. Next followed a visit to the Commons Chamber where I was shown how MPs vote. I later returned to the Commons to watch the House in action with a debate on youth unemployment, in which Mr Heald was scheduled to ask a question. After this, I sat in on a Select Committee (chaired by Sir Menzies Campbell) which was gathering evidence from Damian Green MP about his and Chris Galley’s arrest due to their role in Home Office leaks in 2008.

Today I arrived in time to watch the Home Affairs Select Committee, which was discussing the topic of cocaine trade in the UK. The committee took evidence from a number of people including Mitch Winehouse, father of Amy Winehouse, who is currently in the process of making a documentary on heroin addiction and how it affects not just the addict but also the family. Mitch Winehouse argued that whilst he had been in a fortunate enough financial position with his daughter, treatment for addicts without substantial financial support was not widespread and accessible enough. It was even suggested to the Committee by Steve Rolles, from Transform Drugs Policy, that illegal drugs trade should be legalised which, he argued, would allow for effective government regulation of the industry.

Finally I sat in the public gallery for a debate in the House of Commons in which the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Milliband) was questioned, most notably by his opposite number William Hague who was thoroughly entertaining to watch.

Young Voters – a blog by Shantel Simms

July 10, 2009
Today previous intern, Shantel Simms, has returned to my office after finishing her exams to write a quick blog for me, take it away Shantel!
Shantel Simms and Big Ben

Shantel Simms and Big Ben

An issue that I am most passionate about is the involvement of young people in politics and the voting process. I believe that it is vital that the young generation are more involved in politics, especially in voting as this ensures that a fair representation of the population is considered in future political activity.

Many young people between the ages of 18-24, that I have spoken to about the subject claim that they do not believe that voting will benefit them as they feel disengaged from politics today. I believe that this idea may have arisen from the fact that in North East Hertfordshire there are not many opportunities to study politics in secondary schools or colleges, therefore there is not enough knowledge about the subject to motivate young people to want to vote.

From personal experience, it was not until I had finished both school and college and started university in London, that studying politics was an option for me. I feel that if there is the option of studying politics as an A-Level in secondary schools and colleges there will be a higher level of interest in the subject and in the voting process.

On another occasion in which I have discussed the issue of voting with young people, it was suggested that voting would be more appealing to them if it could be carried out online. With the internet largely popular with most 18-24 year olds, this seems like a refreshing idea that could make voting seem more ‘trendy’, less time consuming and more attractive to young people.

Office Intern Rachel blogs on the Budget

April 22, 2009
Rachel the Intern

Rachel the Intern

Today my office intern writes her reaction to today’s Budget from the House of Commons. Take it away Rachel:

“To have the opportunity to sit in the House of Commons and watch one of the most important events of the year, especially now due to the large-scale economic down-turn, was certainly something of an experience. The two things that interested me most were the large increase in borrowing and the new money the Chancellor plans to spend on young people. Just having more new 6th form places available isn’t going to bring the numbers that the Government want to see because young people are asking what this extra education will be worth at the end of it. Most of the people I know who have applied for EMA have had to wait for months to receive the benefits, if it’s not encouraging people now why will it encourage more young people after this Budget? Overall it was interesting to see the party debates over the Budget.”