FENLANDER: Young people put NE Cambs MP’s aide on the spot during a trip to Parliament

YOUNG people in Fenland have been encouraged to get involved in politics and to raise issues that concern them with their MP, Stephen Barclay.

The invitation to write to him came during a trip to the London just before Christmas.

More than 30 young people from Fenland walked the corridors of power, touring the Houses of Parliament and watching a debate in the House of Lords. They also gained a revealing insight into the views of Mr Barclay.

The visit was organised by Fenland Youth District Council (YDC) and included representatives from Whittlesey Action for Youth, Wisbech Youth Council and Fenzone.

Siana Rawlings, the YDC’s chairman, said it had been “a fantastic day”, adding: “We hope that it has been an inspiration for all who attended. As young people active in our communities we now know who to speak to get things done.”

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The highlight of the trip was a wide-ranging and enlightening question-and-answer session with Helene Tyrrell, Mr Barclay’s parliamentary researcher, at Portcullis House, next to Parliament.

They met in the Thatcher room, just along the corridor from the Wilson room that had seen a shaving foam pie launched into the face of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch during a Commons Select Committee hearing.

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There were no foam pies for Ms Tyrell but the tough questioning would have taxed the slickest of politicians. Topics included:

• How young people can get involved in local issues and get their voices heard,

• Mr Barclay’s priorities for Fenland,

• The impact of tuition fees and cuts in education for young people and the effect of cuts on poorest communities, and

• The impact of the Eurozone crisis on UK and whether UK should hold a referendum on EU membership.

She was also asked about Mr Barclay’s views on the Coalition, the recent public sector industrial action and benefit reform.

She said that he believed that young people should be involved in politics and should not be afraid to send him a letter or e-mail to ask him a question. His priorities for Fenland included better transport and economic regeneration, including attracting extra funding and talent to the area.

He also felt that cuts were necessary but not just for their own sake – waste should be identified first and more efficient ways of working found.

He supported the work of the Coalition but felt that inevitably certain compromises were necessary as a result. He also agreed that there should be a referendum on EU membership but that neither the time nor the question was right when the matter last came before Parliament.

The visit to the capital ended with a trip on the London Eye, followed by a journey through the East End into Stratford to see the site for the Olympics.

Councillor Steve Garratt, Fenland District Council’s portfolio holder responsible for young people, accompanied the group. He said: “It is important to support young people with events like this. We are committed to ensuring that their voices are heard when it comes to making decisions on issues that affect them.

“We hope that by visiting the heart of democracy in Britain we have inspired the next generation to play a full part in the lives of their communities.”

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