Commons chamber overrun by youth parliament

By Alex Stevenson

The House of Commons has been taken over by children aged between 11 and 18 , in a convention-breaking move ending MPs’ historic monopoly on the chamber.

Until now no one but MPs has debated in the chamber of the Commons, which was built in the 1830s.

Usually visitors to the Commons when the House is not sitting are permitted to walk through the chamber, but are forbidden from sitting on the famous green benches.

For the first time today that changed as over 300 members of the Youth Parliament debate in the Commons.

The teenagers debated on a range of issues affecting them, including lowering the voting age to 16, youth crime and university fees.

Speaker John Bercow introduced the first session at 11:00 GMT.

“I am delighted to welcome the Youth Parliament delegates to the House,” he said.

“This is an historic moment and one which I hope will show young people that the House of Commons, and the work that goes on here, is relevant to their lives.”

Gordon Brown jumped to applaud the move, congratulating the ‘MYPs’ for having been elected by their peers.

“At a time when we are having to rebuild trust in politicians and sweep away many of the practices and systems of the past, this very special session of the Youth Parliament will be a symbol of the politics we should all strive for – politics that bring people together to work for what is best for us all,” he said.

Last year the Youth Parliament sat in the Lords chamber for the first time, a move which will not be repeated again.

Not all MPs are happy with the youngsters taking over the chamber. When the Commons voted on the issue before the summer recess 22 voted against it.

Most of those against the move were Conservatives but Liberal Democrats Bob Russell and Jeremy Browne and Labour backbencher Colin Burgon also supported Tory MP Christopher Chope’s opposition.

“We should not abandon or abandon lightly the traditions of this House, which have meant that this chamber is the one for those who have the privilege of being elected as members of the real parliament, not members of a mock parliament,” he said.

The Youth Parliament debate will be broadcast on BBC Parliament from 16:00 GMT.