On Tuesday 1st of March 2016, the Lower 6th DESG students (and one Royal Navy student) had the pleasure of visiting the Houses of Parliament, in the Palace of Westminster and the main building of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) on the site where the Palace of Whitehall used to stand.
After a very early start in the rain and a quick breakfast, we set off on the two and half hour journey to the capital, most of us using this time to catch up on lost sleep! We arrived outside the Houses of Parliament, and quickly jumped off the coach. Outside the entrance we met Mr. Andy Gillman MBE who leads the MOD’s Education Outreach Programme and has organised these trips for Welbeck for well over ten years. He also comes to talk to the Lower Sixth each year about the MOD as a Government Department, informing us of its general structure as well as the Ministers and Officers holding high ranking positions within it (some of whom we saw later that day).
After passing through airport-like security, we moved into the 919 year old Westminster Hall. We met our tour guide, a very enthusiastic man who started off the tour by telling us we were not allowed to die within the palace as then our family could sue the monarchy, but then telling us the story of Prime Minister Spencer Perceval who was in fact shot in 1812, but died outside on the pavement.
The rest of the tour was extremely interesting as well, we moved through St Stephen’s Hall, into the main lobby. Unfortunately the House of Commons Chamber was due to be in session later, so we were unable to go in. Instead we went into the Norman Porch, then through the Lord’s Not Content Lobby, stopping off in the Robing room and then through into the highly elaborate House of Lords Chamber, all the while learning facts of the history of not only the Palace, but of the monarchy and democracy of the UK as well.
Finally we made our way back into central lobby where we were lucky enough to see the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt. Hon John Bercow MP, whilst he was taking part in the Speaker’s Procession to open the Chambers of the House of Commons for the day. This concluded our tour of the Houses of Parliament and after thanking our tour guide, we made our way over to Portcullis House.
Portcullis house, an extension to the Houses of Parliament, saw us meet the Right Honourable Member for Charnwood Mr Edward Argar MP, our local MP. He thanked us for the commitment we had made to the UK’s defence capabilities looking into the future, having a keen interest in foreign policy himself. A short introduction, followed by a twenty minute Q&A session, which included questions on Brexit, constituency work, defence, foreign policy and the commons’ camaraderie, concluded our time with the MP.
Mr Gillman then led us on to the headquarters of the Ministry of Defence, which were highly secure and required the use of an airlock to get in! He led us to the beautiful canteen area where we enjoyed a delicious lunch. Following this, we then moved into a conference room where we met some Old Welbexians (James Craven, Anne Walmsley and Grace Lusby – all 09e) who are currently engaged in the DESG Graduate Scheme, who spoke to us about their experiences of Welbeck DSFC, DTUS and DESG so far. This provided us with vital insight and advice for how to make the most of the scheme for our personal development as engineering and science graduates.
We descended a few flights of stairs after the lectures, wondering what on earth lay below Whitehall. Lo and behold, Henry VIII’s wine cellar lay there in all its former glory. The original barrels were present and the exhibition surrounding it provided us with adequate history to last the year, considering we are studying technical subjects!
After again ascending the stairs, we had the privilege to do what very few people have ever done before, which was walk the ministerial corridors of the Ministry. We met Julian Brazier MP, the Parliamentary Minister for Reserves. We are very grateful to Lorrainein the Minister’s Office who did the necessary administration for Julian Brazier MP to sponsor us for our guided tour of Parliament.
An introduction and another Q&A with interesting insight into the future of the reserves and the cadets topped off a busy day in London, and hopefully some of us have many more days to come at Whitehall in the future.
On behalf of all the students we would like to especially thank Mr Gillman and his team at the MOD and Mr Crookes for organising and joining us on this fantastic trip.
Alex Duly, Portland, 15E and George Clark, Nelson, 15E