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School Parliament

11 January 2013

WE CAN be sure that it was a better-mannered affair than any Wednesday PMQs in the Westminster Parliament. About 100 secondary-school students gathered in Derby Cathedral for a debate called by the Bishop of Derby, Dr Alastair Redfern. Dr Redfern, who is a member of the House of Lords, believes it is important "that all generations understand politics".

He organised the event to mark Parliament Week, and he chose a subject very pertinent to those who came: "The Lord Bishop of Derby to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they recognise that the huge increase in university tuition fees will discourage students from applying and undermines the university sector, especially in the areas of the humanities and the arts."

Pauline Latham, the Conservative MP for Mid-Derbyshire, acted as a Government Minister, and Chris William, Labour MP for Derby North, acted as the Opposition Minister, and between them opened the debate. They were followed by responses from the students. The final vote - perhaps predictably - was in favour of the Labour Opposition.

The second part of the afternoon was given to a question-and-answer session during which the pupils asked the public figures present about such topics as graduate jobs, the General Synod vote on women bishops, the local Sinfield waste-treatment plans, whether prisoners should be entitled to free education, and whether the voting age should be lowered to 16.


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