10th February 2021 — Julie Marson MP for Hertford and Stortford visited the Year 6 class of St Joseph's In The Park via Zoom for an hour long lesson on the 5th February.
The class were due to visit the Houses of Parliament and to have a guided tour which wasn't possible due to lockdown, however Julie Marson gave them a fascinating insight into Parliament and her role as an MP.
The children were interested to hear Julie's story - how she became a Member of Parliament, what it is like to work in the House of Commons and the highlights of her work so far. A Q & A session followed where they had the chance to ask her questions on topics which particularly interested them.
Mrs Marson was elected as MP for Hertford and Stortford in 2019 and told the children that it is a very rewarding and interesting job as she represents her constituents in parliament and tries to help individuals and the community with problems or issues that arise such as flooding, crime, planning, education, health and welfare. She did not come from a political background, her Grandfather was a docker in the East End of London and she was born in Barking and was educated at the local grammar school. After university she had a successful career in the city working in finance. After having her son she ran charities, served as a councillor and then a magistrate which sparked her interest in politics. She wanted to do more for people who had a hard start in life.
She explained that few people watching politics on tv get to see how much cross party work goes on behind the scenes in parliament and in select committees. She sits on the Treasury Select Committee and has interviewed the Chancellor and the Governor of the bank of England.
Mrs Marson gave an in depth introduction to the Houses of Parliament including the history of Westminster Hall and a description of the House of Lords and House of Commons. She explained how the MPs in the House of Commons are all elected and represent their constituents. The House of Lords is the second chamber of UK parliament with around 800 members. The majority are life peers but many members are active in their careers whether in business, culture, science, sports, academia, law, education, health and public service. They bring this knowledge to their role of examining matters of public interest that affect all UK citizens. She described the last state opening of Parliament, where she was lucky enough to be in the right place to see the Queen sitting on the throne in the House of Lords and black rod walking through the corridor.
The Q & A session was very informative. Children asked some searching questions. Here are some examples:
- Q: What is it like to work behind the scenes in the building itself?
- A: Thousands of people work in the building. Julie has got lost in the corridors and offices but you know when you're in the House of Commons as the carpet is green and in the House of Lords the carpets are red. There is an underground tunnel which connects Portcullis House, the modern office building to the main Palace of Westminster. There are several restaurants, a hairdressers and a gym as the MPs have to live there all day while votes are going on and they need to be within 9 minutes of the Chamber. A division bell begins to clang throughout the Palace when a vote is called and there is a mad rush to reach the voting lobbies.
- Q: What has been your toughest moment as an MP?
- A: The first time I had to stand in a chamber and ask a question of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I was nervous but it turned out well in the end.
- Q: Do you feel as though you can make a big impact on the choices the government makes?
- A: Yes. MPs do get to advise and give their opinion to government ministers every day and that can make a big difference to legislation.
- Q: When will children be able to go back into school?
- A: The government and every MP is working hard to get schools and education back to normal for everyone as we know it is very important and a priority.
- Q: Do you get a chance to meet well known people?
- A: I regularly meet the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers. When Priti Patel the Home Secretary visited Bishop's Stortford to meet the Chief Constable of Herts Police I accompanied her when she met new police recruits on a socially distanced visit.
- Q: I am concerned about homeless people, particularly in the light of the pandemic situation. What is the government doing to help them?
- A: The government have spent £400 million in 2020 on helping homeless people. Bob Blackman MP has introduced a Homelessness Reduction Act which means that councils now have a legal duty to look after homeless people.
Covid-19 has meant that many more constituents have needed help and advice and have contacted their MP for support. In 2020 her office answered 26,000 emails so they are very busy. Julie is immensely proud of sitting on the bill committees and seeing positive changes this brings for people.
The Year 6 teacher Paul Ross thanked Julie Marson for taking the time out of her busy day to join the class and said how much they had enjoyed finding out about the working life of an MP and how parliament works.