Young people join debate in Parliament

Published on 13 November 2015

YOUNG people representing Leicester at the UK Youth Parliament are joining a debate in the House of Commons today (Nov 13).

279 members of the UK Youth Parliament – elected by 11 to 18 year-olds from across the country – will debate a range of topical issues, including the need for improved mental health services and tackling racist and religious discrimination.

They include Ria Pawha and Brahmpreet Gulati from Leicester, who were elected to the UK Youth Parliament as the two highest-polling candidates when Leicester young people elected members of the city’s own Youth Council in 2014.

UK Youth Parliament members will also mark the 750th anniversary of the Magna Carta through a discussion of what its principles mean to young people today. 

The debates will be streamed live on the parliamentary website and all schools across the UK have been encouraged to tune in to watch the debates, which are broadcast from 11.10am.

At the close of debate, the members of Youth Parliament (MYPs) will vote to decide which of the topics will become the focus of their national 2015 campaign.

The UK Youth Parliament is the only external group permitted to use the House of Commons Chamber. MYPs are also more representative of those they speak for than their adult equivalents, in terms of gender, background and ethnicity.

Ria said: “Young people are only 20 per cent of the population, but they are 100 per cent of the future. The voices of young people are often sidelined, but this debate gives us an opportunity to meaningfully represent and campaign for all of the voices that might otherwise be lost.”

Brahmpreet added: “Going to the House of Commons is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It's a huge platform for young people to be heard from. It's very exciting, but it’s also important that we try to represent all young people from Leicester and ensure that their voices are heard on a national scale.”

Cllr Sarah Russell, assistant city mayor for children, young people and schools, said: “Leicester has its own active and thriving Youth Council, supported by our youth services staff, to help young people engage with democracy and have a real say over the issues that matter to them.

“It’s fantastic that two of these young people will be representing Leicester on a national stage, ensuring that the voices of young people from the city are heard. They should be very proud of their achievements and their involvement in this event.”

The UK Youth Parliament sitting will be presided over by the Speaker, the Rt Hon John Bercow MP.

Members of Youth Parliament will also be joined by Dr Therese Coffey MP, deputy leader of the House, Chris Bryant MP, shadow leader of the House, and Rob Wilson MP, minister for Civic Society.

The debate is one of the key events of Parliament Week (16-22 November), a national awareness week supported by the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The aim of the week is to inspire, engage and connect people with parliamentary democracy.