It was great to kick off a critical day for our nation with a brief welcome to a host of young scientists and engineers taking part in an event organised by the @royalsocbio The Voice of the Future 2019 gathering was organised by the indefatigable Dr Stephen Benn, and gives young people the chance to put their science policy questions to key political figures. Unlike the audience, I was particularly bad at and uninterested in science - and looking back I wish I wish I’d applied myself more to the subject than I did, as it is the route to a really distinguished and very good career. We need more scientists in Parliament - and those that we have we need to get the maximum benefit from.
Having visited @hartonacademy last year, it was my pleasure to welcome its executive headteacher Sir Ken Gibson, his staff and 10 students to @ukparliament this week. The group had a tour of the House of Lords and watched #PMQs before visiting Speaker’s House where we debated how to get more young people involved in politics, whether phones should be used in the chamber and how to make Parliament more diverse. I was also blown away by the very kind gift of a personal caricature, which was presented to me by the students.
Women are changing the House of Commons, which is why I was very pleased to see @rachelreevesmp launch her latest tome Women of Westminster at Speaker’s House. Rachel’s work celebrates the achievements of these female pioneers - the 491 women who have been elected to Parliament over the past 100 years. It was lovely to see Rachel’s sister @elliereevesmp and dad Graham proudly supporting her.
I love #Ask the Speaker - not only because it gives me a chance to talk to students, but also because the experience is so positive, it sets me up for the week. Answering questions from over 40 students at Skinners Academy, Hackney, was no exception. The 14-18 year olds quizzed me on a range of issues, from what drew me to the position of Speaker and who was my role model as a child - to what is the most difficult part of the job and the best moment in my career. #Ask the Speaker is a live Q&A session where students can put their questions to the Speaker of the House of Commons. To find out more, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s always a joy to go to universities - talking to, being questioned by and engaging with students and academics. @royalholloway University’s Politics and International Relations Society was the Political Association’s ‘Society of the Year 2018’ - and from my interaction with the students, I can well understand why. Dr Nick Allen, Reader of Politics at RHUL, and his colleagues exude passion for the study of politics, and their commitment is infectious. These photos show me talking to politics students, and with Professor Chris Hanretty and Dr Nick Allen @royalholloway Founders’ Building.
There were cheers and tears in my office today when the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition paid warm tributes to our Office & Events Secretary Eve Griffith-Okai who retires this week after almost 33 years in the Speaker’s Office. @theresamay commented at question time that Eve had worked for four Speakers. To cheers, she added: ‘I am sure the whole House will want to join me in wishing her the best for the future.’ @jeremycorbyn also wished Eve a happy retirement, and addressing me, said: ‘She’s been absolutely brilliant in your office over many years of people rushing in and out, making totally unreasonable demands - she’s always sorted it out. ‘So could you pass on to her the thanks of lots and lots of backbenchers over many, many years.’ So say all of us! Here’s Eve watching the tributes in our office.
Our inimitable House of Commons Clerk, Sir David Natzler, had a bit of a shock when he arrived at the office of the Leader @andrealeadsom He thought he was coming for a quiet ‘goodbye’ drink - but ended up with a surprise farewell from Ministers, MPs and staff from my office, the Leader’s, the Whips’ and the Cabinet Office. David will be retiring after 43 years of tireless and outstanding service. For me personally, he has been a loyal colleague and friend - and his calm and good-humoured presence will be sorely missed by us all. Thanks to @andrealeadsom for organising such a cordial gathering.
Our office just won’t be the same without Eve Griffith-Okai, who is retiring after almost 33 years working in the Speaker’s Office. Eve, our Office & Events Secretary, has served under, and with, and in support of four Speakers: Bernard Weatherill, Betty Boothroyd, Michael Martin and myself. She’s much-loved across the House and her outstanding track record of public service, I’m glad to say, has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated. Eve, we’re going to miss you!
I had an interesting meeting with Burma’s delegation of grassroots activists, who are visiting British politicians, government officials, NGOs and the media to give an update on the situation in the region. The delegation included, Zoya Phan, from the Burma Campaign UK, Naw Wah Ku Shee (Karen Peace Support Network), and Naw Hsa Moo (Karen Environmental and Social Action Network). The group hopes the government will prioritise human rights in Burma and increase aid for refugees and Internally Displaced People.
I really enjoyed taking questions from pupils at Elm Wood Primary School, West Norwood, this morning at one of my regular #Ask the Speaker sessions. I was struck by how fluent and confident the children were - and the quality of their questions. They are a credit to their headteacher Myrtle Charles, and their teacher Stephanie Kamara, who helped organise the session. Some of the questions raised included: what was the longest debate I had chaired (14 hours on #Brexit), was it hard to control politicians, how do MPs’ know when it’s their turn to speak, and how are laws made. #Ask the Speaker is an opportunity for students aged seven to 18 to put questions to the Speaker live from their school.
Great to meet Damien Arness Dalton, our Education and Engagement Assistant, who penned an article for @stonewalluk on Section 28. Introduced 30 years ago, Section 28 prevented local councils from promoting homosexuality in schools. Damien’s article quite rightly ‘hopes we can teach #LGBT history in school to create an understanding and a space where pupils can see themselves and people like them.’ Damien kindly added: ‘Mr Speaker, through his advocacy and championing of LGBT+ issues has empowered me in my place of work to be my authentic self - and with his support and leadership can share this with our visitors to Parliament with Pride.’