UK Youth Parliament
||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (July 2014)|
|Motto||Making Our Mark|
|Formation||9 June 1998|
|Headquarters||London, England |
|British Youth Council|
|Affiliations||Scottish Youth Parliament, Young Mayors Network Funky Dragon and Northern Ireland Youth Forum|
Formed in 2000, the parliament now consists of around 600 members, who are elected to represent the views of young people in their area to government and service providers. Over 500,000 young people vote in the elections each year, which are held in at least 90 percent of constituencies. It is currently managed by the British Youth Council.
Members meet regularly to hold debates and plan campaigns, at venues including the British Museum, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Young people hold important positions throughout the organisation's management, and it has been endorsed by the leaders of all three main political parties.
Those elected for UKYP hold the suffix of MYP in their names. Although the idea has been widely praised both inside and outside of government, a 2004 Department for Education and Skills report found that not a single person taking part in their consultation had even heard of UKYP.
- 1 Formation
- 2 Composition
- 3 Meetings
- 4 Regional
- 5 Campaigns
- 6 Organisation
- 7 Reception
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The concept of a United Kingdom Youth Parliament first arose at an event in Coventry entitled "Heirs To The Millennium". After the event, the MP Andrew Rowe along with the NSPCC and youth worker Kate Parish began to develop a proposal for the youth advocacy group. In 1998, a steering committee was formed, led by Andrew Rowe and chaired by a young person named James Moody.
In 2000, Malcolm Wicks, Department for Education and Employment, agreed to employ a member of staff who would work full-time on developing the UK Youth Parliament alongside Kate Parish. Soon after, the first elections for the UK Youth Parliament were held, with the first Annual Sitting being held in February 2000.
A Member of Youth Parliament (MYP) works with MPs, service providers, and decision makers in order to present the views of their constituents to them. Deputy Members of Youth Parliament are also elected, although not every MYP has a deputy. Deputies work with and support their Member of Youth Parliament locally and regionally, but are not entitled to attend the Annual Sitting or other national events – unless their MYP is unable to.
There are currently over 600 Members of Youth Parliament (MYPs), including deputies (DMYPs).
The UK Youth Parliament elections are held every two years, with all young people between the ages of 11–18 being entitled to vote. In England, 90 percent of the Local Education Authorities currently hold UKYP elections – however, criticism has been raised concerning allegations that teachers in schools where the elections take place will sometimes tell students to vote for their own school's candidate instead of allowing them to choose the candidate they prefer. Young people elect their local area's Member(s) of Youth Parliament (MYPs), who provide a voice for the young people in their area. The number of MYP positions is proportionate to the population of young people in the authority.
Outside of England, partner organisations undertake the elections; in Scotland, elections are held every two years for young people to elect their local Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYP). The Scottish Youth Parliament then internally appoints sixteen of their members to represent the nation as their Members of the UK Youth Parliament which means that Scottish MYPs hold a dual mandate as both a MYP and a MSYP. In Wales a similar system is used by the Children and Young People's Assembly for Wales, and in Northern Ireland by the Northern Ireland Youth Forum.
The Annual Sitting is the parliament's main yearly meeting, which all MYPs attend. It takes place on a university campus over three days. Proceedings include keynote speeches from political figures, followed by question and answer sessions. Past speakers include Hazel Blears, Ben Bradshaw, and Des Browne. MYPs also hold debates on topical issues, undertake training in campaigning, democracy and leadership, and consult with outside organisations such as the Ministry of Justice, BBC Trust and Department for Transport.
At each Annual Sitting, a manifesto is created, in which MYPs aim to fully represent the issues that affect their constituents in a single document. Policies are developed based on seven key areas: Culture, Media & Sport, Education & Employment, Empowering Young People, Health, International Matters, Law & Society, and Transport, Environment and Rural Affairs. This manifesto is then presented to government as a current overview of young peoples’ views.
The 9th Annual Sitting was held at the University of Kent from Friday 24 July to Monday 27 July 2009. Keynote speakers included John Bercow MP and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The keynote speakers were:
- John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons
- Wes Streeting, President of the National Union of Students
- Jonathan Shaw, Minister for the South East
- Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury
UKYP held its 11th Annual Sitting in 2011 at the University of Leeds from Friday 22 July to Sunday 24 July. UKYP were joined by the following speakers:
- John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons
- Iby Knell, A Holocaust Survivor
- Natascha Engel, Chair of the Backbench Business Committee
- Tim Loughton, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Children & Families
- Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner
- Chris Williamson, Labour politician
- Liam Burns, NUS President
- Susan Nash, Chair of Young Labour
- Ben Howlett, Chairman of Conservative Future
The UKYP Annual Sitting 2012 took place at the University of Nottingham over the weekend of 27–29 July.
The UKYP Annual Sitting 2013 once again took place at the University of Leeds. Speakers included Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable; John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons and the UK Youth Parliament and Pamela Warhurst Incredible Edible
The UKYP Annual Sitting 2014 will take place at the University of Lancaster.
Circles of Influence
The annual Circles of Influence aims to focus on key youth issues, by engaging government departments, public organisations and young people in an exciting debate format. It involves around 200 Members of Youth Parliament holding discussions seated in a circular shape.
The event was first held in 2006, and takes place at the British Museum. It has focused on topics including talent, leadership, and intergenerational relations. Attendees have included Tessa Jowell, Lord Taylor and Harriet Harman.
House of Lords debates
In May 2008, the UKYP was granted permission to hold a debate between over 300 MYPs in the House of Lords, making it one of only two organisations to ever use the venue for non-Parliamentary proceedings, the other being the English Speaking Union for their Internation Mace Final on May 12, 2007. The event was chaired by the Lord Speaker Baroness Hayman and was broadcast on BBC Parliament.
The debates held were:
- Recycling and the environment
- National transport concession for young people
- Abolish university tuition fees
- Fair representation of young people in the media
- Lowering the voting age to 16
- Whether the amount of betting stores should be restricted.
- Single age of adulthood
House of Commons debates
Prime Minister Gordon Brown suggested that members of the UK Youth Parliament could have annual access to the House of Commons chamber in 2007, but this did not come about until March 2009, when a motion was passed to allow the UK Youth Parliament to use the House of Commons for that year's annual meeting. However, a Conservative Member of Parliament objected, which forced a vote to be taken on the issue, also employing a procedure called "I spy strangers" (historically used to expel disruptive spectators, but now mostly to disrupt the House's business) to take business in the House beyond 7:00pm and stifle any possible debate on the issue. On 12 March, a second debate was held in the House of Commons with a vote set to be taken four days later.
On 16 March 2009, 189 Members of Parliament voted to allow the UK Youth Parliament to debate in the House of Commons, with 16 votes of opposition by Conservative backbenchers. It was the first time in history that the House of Commons chamber was used by a group other than MPs.
An online vote was held from July to determine the debate topics, which were:
- Abolish university tuition fees
- Youth crime and how to tackle it
- Free transport for over 60s, but not for young people
- Capitalism, the economy and job opportunities for young people
- Lowering the voting age to 16
|“||At 16, we can marry our MP, we can sleep with our MP and we can have children with our MP. We can sign up in preparation for fighting and potentially dying for our MP. And suddenly we are not mature enough to vote for them. What an absolute disgrace!||”|
—James Evans MYP, http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200809/cmhansrd/youth/debtext/91030.htm#09110254000236
The debates took place in the House of Commons chamber on Friday 30 October 2009, from 11am to 3:30pm. The session was recorded in Hansard, and the morning debates were broadcast on BBC Parliament the same day. The final two debates were televised later in the week.
The debates were chaired by John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, who closed the event with a dramatic speech to MYPs in which he described the British National Party as "a poison which we could well do without". The Speaker is usually expected to remain impartial, so as not to compromise his authority, but in this case was able to express personal opinion because the ornamental mace that indicates Parliament is sitting was not in place.
In 2010 a debate was held to disuses the possibility of the youth parliament returning for a second sitting. This resulted in the decision to allow their return not only for that year, but every year for the remainder of the sitting of the current parliament.
In 2011, once again the Members of Youth Parliament will debated in the House of Commons this time having five topics chosen by over 65,000 young people. The event was chaired by John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, after his persistence in supporting the youth parliament. The sitting was broadcast on BBC Parliament but this time live from 11:00am – 4:00pm.
Members of Youth Parliament in England are split into nine geographical regions, which meet and work together regularly: London, East Midlands, West Midlands, South West, South East, North West, North East, Yorkshire & Humberside, East of England.
Regional meetings take place roughly every six weeks, and last around a day. Members share news, issues and resources, in addition to taking part in training to help them in their role.
The UK Youth Parliament launched the "Make Your Mark" ballot in 2011. The purpose of the ballot to get young people from across the UK to determine which five topics the UK Youth Parliament would debate within the House of Commons. Over 65,000 young people completed the ballot after several months of campaigning.
The five issues being debated in the House of Commons chamber are:
- "Make public transport cheaper, better and accessible for all"
- "No to tuition fees, yes to graduate tax"
- "Zero tolerance towards bullying in schools"
- "End child poverty"
- "A Greener future for Britain"
On 4 November 2011, Members of Youth Parliament came from across the UK to debate and vote at House of Commons the most important issue to campaign on in 2012. The winning campaign topic was "Make public transport cheaper, better and accessible for all".
Decisions regarding the development and progression of the organisation is undertaken by the Procedures Group, made up of two MYPs elected from each region and nation (known as "PGs"), for an 18-month term. Their main focus is "key decisions relating to the membership and the programme of work, within the given strategic boundaries".
They meet a minimum of four times a year to represent their regions nationally, coordinate campaign efforts and organise events such as the Annual Sitting. Reports are taken back to MYPs at their regional meetings.
There are currently 11 members of the Procedures Group. These are Ryan Cairns, Louise Cameron, Matthew Otubu, Ciarán O'Shea, Katie Ward, Lukas Colledge, Ashleigh O'Mahony, Jess Elms, Fred Gill, Billie Bell and Matthew Smeeth.
Management and support
The British Youth Council currently manages the UK Youth Parliament.
The British Youth Council recently won a bid, granted by the Department for Education to lead a national Youth Voice Service. Youth Voice will support young people in influencing local and national Government decision making in England, and provide continued support for the UK Youth Parliament.
The corporate and administrative governance is overseen by the Board of Trustees of the British Youth Council.
The organisation has been endorsed by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Conservative Party Leader and British Prime Minister David Cameron and Liberal Democrat Party Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. In 2009, Brown described the UK Youth Parliament as "a symbol of the politics we should all strive for - politics that bring people together to work for what is best for us all."
In 2006, the organisation's Head of Programmes Kate Parish was given a National Council for Voluntary Youth Services Award, for her "commendable dedication to the development of UK Youth Parliament".
In 2008, the UK Youth Parliament was given the Positive Images award by the Children & Young People Now magazine for exposing young people’s experiences of the current levels of sex and relationships education in a high profile publicity campaign. In 2009, the organisation also received a Brook special achievement award for this campaign.
The organisation has been described by Daily Mail columnist Tom Utley as "sublimely fatuous", after MYPs co-signed an open letter with public figures including Davina McCall and Polly Toynbee to The Times. The letter protested against the lack of sufficient sex and relationships education in schools, and that the UK Youth Parliament believe that this has led to increasing teenage pregnancy. Utley argues that there is already far too much sex education, and that increasing it would only lead to more underage sex.
A study by the University of Colorado found that youth participation organisations in the UK, including the UK Youth Parliament, needed to "tackle the unintentional practice of tokenism". The paper concludes that "failing to act upon [young people's] opinions or take them very seriously" once they are identified is often a cause of frustration amongst participants.
A 2004 report commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills was critical of UKYP's relationship with the devolved nations, suggesting that it was acting more as an English Youth Parliament. The report noted issues with language for some Welsh representatives, and that it was often difficult for MYPs not near to London to get to meetings with government ministers. It also advocated stronger regional groups, and improvements to ensuring engagement with government is followed up later to assess the impact.
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