Government and Politics: Young Person's Question Time
On Thursday 17 January a cohort of A Level Politics students from schools across Wealden met at the Westminster parliament for a session of Young Person's Question Time, organised by Bede's Senior School.
Pupils from Heathfield, Beacon, Uckfield and Uplands Community Colleges joined others from St Leonards-Mayfield School, Michael Hall and Bede's in Parliamentary Committee Room 14 to ask questions and discuss a range of issues with politicians from across the generations.
Those on the panel for the event included cross-bench peer in the House of Lords, Baroness Neuberger, Labour Party representative and member of the Brown government Baroness Whitaker, Conservative MP for Wealden and one-time Chief of Staff to William Haig Mr Charles Hendry and Isabella Wilson, a cabinet member in the UK Youth Parliament.
Charles De Chassiron, former Vice-Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps, chaired the discussion.
After a short introduction by Mr Marc Rattray, Head of Philosophy and Ethics and Bede's, a lively debate quickly began, prompted by the question from Beacon Community College, "Should Britain adopt the American system for higher education, and its fees?"
The discussion then moved onto the state of the British economy, during which several questions about pay equality, benefits for the elderly and the European Union were asked by pupils from Bede's, Heathfield Community College and Michael Hall.
"The current government are extremely worried about these issues," said Mr Hendry, who was a member of the Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition government until the September 2012 cabinet reshuffle.
"It is clear that Labour cannot be blamed for all of these woes, but there is no doubt that certain Labour policies did compound some issues," continued Mr Hendry.
"The need," added Lady Whitaker, "is to safeguard people's jobs and spending power. The very nature of business is changing."
The last section of the debate centred on the issue of cannabis legalisation, which came from Uckfield Community College.
Youth parliament representative Isabella Wilson and Baroness Neuberger were in agreement on the issue.
"If we could legalise and regulate cannabis then we could also tax it," said Ms Wilson. "Compared to alcohol and tobacco, it is hard to argue that cannabis is a more harmful substance."
"But I wouldn't call for 'legalisation'," added Baroness Neuberger. "Decriminalisation of the possession of small quantities is the key."
The session concluded with a short speech by Mr De Chassiron, who said to the audience, "Everyone on the panel wishes we had more time, but we do not. Thank you to Bede's and all the other schools in attendance for a very stimulating afternoon."