On Wednesday 18th January 2017, the Lower Sixth DESG students 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 and a quick breakfast, we set off on the 2 and half hour journey to the London, most of us using this time to catch up on lost sleep! Outside the entrance to MOD Main Building we met Mr. Andy Gillman MBE who leads the MoD’s Education Outreach Programme. Mr Gillman has organised these trips for Welbeck for well over 10 years. He also comes to talk to the Lower Sixth each year about the MoD as a Government Department, informing us of its organisational structure as well as the Ministers and Officers holding high ranking positions within it, some of whom we were to meet later that day.
Upon entering Main Building we had to turn off our phones and undertake security scanning before we could enter into the large, open plan main hallway and meeting place of Whitehall. It housed a large war memorial and many marble pillars which gave it a very pleasing look and charm. Afterwards, we descended underneath the building to Henry VIII’s wine cellar, which is one of the few historic parts of Whitehall still standing (although it was moved underground shortly after the Second World War).
We then received three presentations, two of which were from former Welbexian DESG students. They gave us an insight into what our future careers during and after University would be like. This included a lot of information about the DTUS scheme and paid work placements with the MoD. It was very useful to us as it meant that we were able to get a much better feel for our future careers than we currently have, especially after meeting with people who had been through the scheme.
We then visited the Ministerial floor of the building. Whilst being guided around the floor, we were able to see the famous Mountbatten Room and Pepys’ Suite. By chance we were fortunate to meet with the Rt Hon Mike Penning MP who is Minister for the Armed Forces. Afterwards we met with Harriet Baldwin MP who is Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and the Minister for Defence Procurement. With her, we chatted about the current state of the armed forces, the purchase of the new aircraft carriers and what lies ahead for the careers of those in DESG. We then met the Rt Hon Earl Howe who is Deputy Leader of the House of Lords and the Minister of State for Defence. We talked to him about a few issues including the future of NATO after President Trump’s election and the Minister’s portfolio of work in East Asia. Whilst in Whitehall we spotted the Rt Hon Sir Michael Fallon MP who is Secretary of State for Defence, and we were also introduced to the Rt Hon Mark Lancaster MP, Minister for Defence Veterans, Reserves and Personnel. We were also given a brief by a member of the RAF’s Chief of Staff on the RAF’s involvement in conflict across the globe.
After an excellent lunch in the Whitehall Cafeteria we met Lois Nicholson, a Senior Civil Servant with a systems engineering background, in the Historic Rooms. We talked to her about the different prospects we could have getting into engineering and programme management work such as taking on roles in government departments across the UK and also all over the world like she had done, both as a civil servant and also in her early career in industry.
After we had left Whitehall, we walked over to the outside of the Houses of Parliament for a short break before being able to enter. As we entered the Parliament building with our guide, we were taken through the Royal Gallery and then through to the Central Lobby. Here we observed where decoration had been made on the walls to represent the four different countries in the British Isles. The Lobby layout had a surprising level of simplicity to its design; only three corridors lead off from the lobby, one to the House of Commons, one to the House of Lords and one to the Committee Rooms. Our first stop was the House of Commons in which we saw a debate about defence after Brexit. After only a brief time in the viewing galleries, we moved onto the House of Lords which was much more heated in regard to a debate about Midwifery and Nursing in the NHS. Lots of shouting and arguments ensued which had to be quelled before the debate could be continued.
We then moved into Westminster Hall, which is the main function room of Westminster for summer events. Dignitaries from the UK and all over the world have visited here such as Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama.
We then departed from the Houses of Parliament to attend a ‘Rights and Representation’ Workshop in one of the rooms of the Parliamentary Education Centre. This involved team quizzes and information about democracy through time in the United Kingdom. After this had ended, we had a very brief meeting with the Rt Hon Edward Argar MP who is the MP for Welbeck’s local constituency of Charnwood.
On behalf of all the students on this superb visit we would like to express our gratitude to Mr Gillman and his team at the MoD and to Lt Olsson RN and Ma’am Selby for accompanying us on this fantastic trip.
Christopher Winter 16e DESG