On Wednesday 29th November 2017 the Lower Sixth DESG students had the opportunity to visit the Main Building of the MoD on the site of the old Palace of Whitehall and the Houses of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster.
Following a very early breakfast, the 15 Lower Sixth DESG students left Welbeck for the 3 hour coach journey to London, with many of us taking the opportunity to catch up on some lost sleep! Outside the MoD Main Building, we met Mr Andy Gillman MBE, who leads the MoD’s Education Outreach Programme. Mr Gillman also comes to talk to the Lower Sixth each year about the structure of the MOD and how it works as a government department.
Upon entering Whitehall we passed through tight security and were then greeted by the 4 DESG graduates who would spend the day with us, Dave Rutledge, Lewis Tissington, Gerry Sheppard and Joe Hopcroft.
After a brief talk in an amazingly preserved Historic room with some precious paintings, we embarked upon a tour and saw the offices of The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshall Sir Steven Hillier; The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones; The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Nick Carter; and The Chief of the Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach.
Next, we proceeded on to the Ministerial corridor, where we met with the Rt. Hon. Tobias Ellwood, the Minister for Defence People and Veterans and the Member of Parliament for Bournemouth. There we talked about the structure of the UK’s democracy and the future of the Ministry of Defence.
Upon our arrival back in the Historic Conference Room, DESG Graduates gave us some inspiring talks on their DTUS and DESG careers so far and what our futures in the MOD could entail. This was followed by a talk about artificial intelligence from Air Vice Marshall Garry Tunnicliffe, the Defence Services Secretary, which was very interesting.
Following an amazing meal in the MOD Mess, we had a special opportunity to visit King Henry VIII’s Wine Cellar, which has been preserved in its original state for over 400 years, and at one point was even moved on ball-bearings underground to preserve it when it was in danger of being demolished for a new building which eventually became the MOD Headquarters. It even housed the original Wine Barrels from the Tudor era!
After leaving Whitehall, we took a walk down to The Parliamentary Education Centre where we were introduced to our guides, and we set off on a tour of the Palace of Westminster. After visiting the last existing section of the original Westminster Palace and standing in the spot where many famous politicians and important historical figures also stood, including Nelson Mandela and Guy Fawkes, we arrived in the Central Lobby, from which you can see the end of both the Houses (Commons and Lords). Another interesting feature was the murals representing the four different Saints of the British Isles; Saint George, Saint David, Saint Patrick and Saint Andrew.
We then ascended the stairs to the gallery overlooking the House of Commons, where we watched a debate on the age of the Pension for Women. This gave us a unique insight into the way Democracy in the UK works, and it gave us more perspective on current issues in Britain. The next stop was the gallery overlooking the House of Lords, where we were very lucky to be able to see the Questions, especially as one of the main speakers was the Rt. Hon. Earl Howe, the Minister for Defence in the House of Lords.
Our last stop in Parliament was in the Parliament Education Centre, where we took part in a fun workshop on how laws are created, and learned about the process for passing laws and introducing new ideas to Parliament. This was followed by a talk with Edward Argar, the MP for Welbeck’s constituency, Charnwood, who talked to us about his life as an MP and how he balances his life in Westminster with the needs of his constituents in Charnwood.
On behalf of all of the students, I would like to extend our sincere thanks to Mr Gillman and his team for organising an unforgettable day, and Mr Crookes and Mr McGlynn for accompanying us on the visit.