On 13 November 2015, Young Wales supported 16 young people from12 local authorities to attend the UK Youth Parliament (UKYP) in the House of Commons, London.
The event, facilitated by the British Youth Council, is the culmination of a year-long programme of work, which sees the House of Commons chamber handed over to young people from the UK Youth Parliament for a day of debating.
The event is chaired by the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon John Bercow MP, who welcomed the debates and praised the young people for getting involved, saying: “The record number of ballots in the vote to select issues to be debated at the annual sitting of the Youth Parliament demonstrates that it is a showcase event for young people and the issues that matter to them. I am pleased that the House of Commons can offer the Chamber as a platform for young people to share their views.”
Chris Bryant MP, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, said: “I am delighted to welcome the UK Youth Parliament back to the House of Commons for their annual meeting. I hope that every MYP is proud to have the opportunity to represent their peers, and I am certain that they will have enjoyable and successful session in the Commons Chamber.”
The work in Wales began in the summer when youth forums and schools took part in Make your Mark, voting to choose the topic to be debated in the House of Commons. Youth forums also voted to select a debate lead from Wales.
Across the UK, a total of 969,992 votes were cast, and the top five issues that young people chose that affect their lives were:
- A living wage: everyone should be able to live comfortably. Everyone aged 16 or over should be paid at least the Living Wage of £7.85 per hour (£9.15 in London)
- A curriculum to prepare us for life: schools should cover topics including finance, sex and relationships and politics in the curriculum
- Transport: make public transport cheaper, better and accessible for all
- Mental health: services should be improved with young people’s help and mental health education should be compulsory and challenge stereotypes
- Tackling racism and religious discrimination, particularly against people who are Muslim or Jewish: all young people should work together to combat racism and other forms of discrimination, and ensure we know the dangers of such hatred
On the day, the young people debated which of these should be chosen as the national campaign for 2016 for the UKYP.
Alisha Gibbons from Carmarthenshire was selected as the Debate Lead for Wales. Alisha spoke against the motion for making mental health the national campaign for the coming year, and following a full day of debates, working together to combat racism and religious discrimination was chosen as the national campaign.
In addition to the five debates, there was a final debate entitled My Magna Carta, where 13 young people presented a short speech about what this meant to them. Katherine Davies from Swansea was the Wales representative for this debate.
In Wales, the young people had taken part in debate workshops in October to help them prepare for their day. Young people and their youth worker supports travelled to London on the Thursday and stayed overnight in London ahead of the day.
All the young people who participated thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and many made strong and valuable contributions to the debates. A number of the young people who took part are already considering a career in politics! One of the young people said: “ I feel empowered and lucky to have had the chance to represent young people in my area, it increased my confidence in public speaking.”