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This is a very important matter. Some people seem to consider it a trifling matter involving a row of green benches which are just furniture, but I do not take that view. I was immensely proud to be elected to this House. The proudest moment of my life, which will always remain the proudest moment of my life, was when I was
enabled to represent my constituents, have the privilege of sitting in this Chamber and have a platform on which to air my viewseven if occasionally Labour Members, and even some on my own side, do not always agree with them. That is an enormous privilege to which I would want every young person in this country to aspire, and I will make it my business to try to inspire every young person in my constituency to get involved in the political process.
Tim Loughton: My hon. Friend said earlier that there is a danger that if we allowed members of the UK Youth Parliament to sit in this Chamber the novelty might wear off and they would want to sit somewhere even bigger in future. Has the novelty worn off for my hon. Friend? Has his enthusiasm for this Chamber in any way been diminished by the fact that he has now become a Member of Parliament, and if not, why does he think that the ardour of these young people would be diminished if they were to have the opportunity to sit here once?
Philip Davies: Perhaps it is so special to me and my enthusiasm has not diminished because I had to wait so long to become a Member. This argument has already been advanced, and not by me; it has been said that neither Committee Room 14 nor the House of Lords would be good enough because the UK Youth Parliament had already sat in them. The logic of that argument is that if they were to sit in the House of Commons Chamber, they would not want to do so again.
There are far better ways to inspire young people to get involved in politics. I speak in debates and argue about political ideas at my local schools. I take every opportunity to visit schools and have debates with students and encourage them to enter the battle of political ideas. I encourage all of them to get involved at the local level in whichever political party suits best their viewpoint, and to try to do something and to make a difference. I am therefore not going to take any lectures from other people about trying to encourage younger people to get involved in the political process. I am as passionate about that as anybody. This is the most simplistic idea to try to get people involved in the political process, however. If the length and breadth of our imagination about how to get younger people involved in the political process is to allow them to sit in this Chamber, we have an awful long way to go before we really engage with young people and inspire them to get involved in politics.
The following questions remain: why just the UK Youth Parliament, and why just this year? My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch made this point particularly well. What is so special about this years cohort of the UK Youth Parliament? I am sure that they are all fine, upstanding people whom we should be encouraging, but why are they more fine and upstanding than next years cohort, or the following years cohort? Why will this inspire this years members to get involved in politics, but not next years members?
Mr. Binley: Does my hon. Friend agree that this proposal might just have been made because this year might be an election year, and that Members on the Government Benches might think there is electoral advantage in it?
Philip Davies: My hon. Friend may well be right. Given the cynical view that members of the public have of politicians generally across the political divide, I would not be surprised if many members of the UK Youth Parliament thought that that might be a motivation. I would like to think that it was not, but I would never like to rule out any such motivation, as it may well be the case.
This step will not make any difference to the number of younger people turning out in elections and getting involved in the political process. This is a gestureit is gesture politics of the worst kind. It is patronising young people to think that if we do this, we can make ourselves look trendy and cool, and we can show we are in touch with the youth in our area because we voted for the UK Youth Parliament to sit in the House of Commons Chamber. If this Parliament really has reached such a level that that is the only argument we can advance, it is very sad indeed. I would have hoped for better than that from this House, but it appears that these are the depths to which we have sunk.
The Deputy Leader of the House must answer this question: why just this years UK Youth Parliament? What is so special about this year? Why do we not want to encourage future years of the Youth Parliament through their using this Chamber, too? Why, also, did we not want to use it in previous years? The suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Binley) about the motivation might well be right, or he may well be wrong, but the question must be answered at least.
I fear that this motion is nothing to do with one year only. It might say that it is for this year only and for the UK Youth Parliament only, but how many Members really think that is going to be the end of the matter? This sets a precedent. When other organisations and bodies argue that they should have the right to sit in this Chamber because the UK Youth Parliament did so, who will stand up to their constituents and say, Oh no, you cant, because the UK Youth Parliament is more special than you are. It is far more deserving than you are? Which of us is going to stand up and say that to their constituents when they ask to use the House of Commons Chamber? Who will say that to their womens institute, Mothers Union or parish council? Nobody is going to say it. The logic of the argument is unanswerable [ Interruption. ] I can give way to my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham so that he can explain how he will tell those people that. No, he has not yet decided what words he would use.
Mr. Bone: My hon. Friend is being extremely generous in giving way so many times. Why would the Womens institute, which single-handedly took on the previous Prime Minister, not have the right to sit here if we let the Youth Parliament do so?
Philip Davies: As always, my hon. Friend makes a good point. The case for allowing other organisationsand the UK Youth Parliament in subsequent yearsto use this Chamber would be unanswerable if we allowed this motion to go through tonight. We could never claim again that only Members of Parliament can sit on these Benches and that only Members of Parliament can use this Chamber for debate. That argument would be gone at a stroke. We would never be able to recover it.
Some people think that we should open up the Chamber to other organisations in the future and to the UK Youth Parliament in subsequent yearsthe hon. Member for Somerton and Frome seems to be one of them. That is fine. I respect that position. It is a perfectly honourable position, but let us have it out in the open. Let everyone put their cards on the table and let us all know what we are entering into. We are setting a precedent that will be repeated year in, year out for all kinds of organisations. At least some Members of this House will have the courage and honesty to say for what they are voting.
What I do not like is the way in which this motion has been dealt with. To start with, it was tabled for consideration at the end of every day, as attempts were made to sneak it through without debate. Now a debate has been forced, we have a pretence that the event will be a one-off. Anybody who believes that is living in cloud cuckoo land. This will happen year after year.
Philip Davies: My hon. Friend keeps tempting me down the line of speculating about why those on our Front Bench have taken the stance that they have. I am sure that my party has good reason for taking the stance that it hasit tends always to have good reason for its decisions. I might not always agree with those decisions, but it always has a good reason for them. People in this House have to vote as they feel and that is a matter for them. I am merely explaining how I feel.
Mr. Bone: I have to take issue with some of those statements. Every vote in this House is a free vote. I have certainly received no instructions from my party on how to vote and I think that we are on a one-line Whip. I am not sure that there is a party view on thiswe have heard different arguments across the political divide.
Philip Davies: I am sure that my hon. Friend will be delighted to see our deputy Chief Whip in the Chamber to hear him say that every vote is a free vote. I am sure that that will not have gone unnoticed. Perhaps the Whips have given up on him in the way that they might well have given up on me. I am not entirely sure.
I am sure that my party has good reasons for the way in which it asks its members to vote tonight. I am merely setting out what I think as well as the fact that I will not support the motion. For me, it is irrelevant what my party decides that it thinks is the right thing to do. In this House, we all have to do what we think is in the best interests of the country, of our constituents and of our party. The issue is much more important than has been given credence by many people.
Bob Spink: I just want to clarify something that was said a moment ago. In fact, there are not shades of opinion on both sides of the House. We have heard no negative opinion of the Government motion from the Labour Benches. In fact, every Labour Member who has spoken and intervened has been in favour of the Government motion.
Philip Davies: The hon. Gentleman appears to be speculating that every Labour MP will support the Government. I do not know whether they will or not; that is a matter for them. Of course, the hon. Gentleman has the great advantage of being the only member of his party in this House, thus avoiding a split.
Philip Davies: I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker, if I was encouraging us to get off the beaten track. I was merely pointing out that there may well be views in all parties about this issue, but obviously, the UK Independence party does not have that disadvantage.
I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will answer the questions of why the UK Youth Parliament, and why just for this year. Will it set a precedent? What guarantees will he give that no other organisation will be allowed to use the Chamber? What promises can he give? What does he advise me to tell the members of other organisations in my constituency, who will see this and want to use the House of Commons Chamber? What arguments should I advance to tell them that it is not suitable for them, but it is for the UK Youth Parliament? I want to hear all these answers from him, because all those questions need answering. [ Interruption. ] Perhaps the view of the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) about the Labour partys voting has inspired the Chief Whip, the right hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East and Wallsend (Mr. Brown), to come and make sure that everybody votes the way that he wants them to; I am not entirely sure.
Mr. Bone: Does my hon. Friend agree that many Members have sat through two debates waiting to speak and have important points to make? Would it not be a disgrace to democracy and to the Youth Parliament if a closure motion were moved?
Mr. Chope: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Do you think that it sets a good example to members of the Youth Parliament that the Government have chosen to curtail debate in this Parliament on this issue?
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