COLLEGE students were treated to an insight into the heart of Westminster when the Speaker of the House of Commons dropped by for a talk.
John Bercow visited Hartlepool Sixth Form College, in the town’s Blakelock Road, as part of his efforts to engage with communities and young people and to give them a better understanding of the role of the Commons in British politics.
College staff say they were delighted such a high profile figure came to speak with students, who had prepared a range of questions around impartiality, the role of the House of Lords and his views on reform.
Mr Bercow, Tory MP for Buckingham, near Oxford, is responsible for chairing the debates in the Commons and must remain impartial and has held the position for the past four years.
He said: “When I am not in the chair I believe it is important to visit schools, colleges, universities, faith groups and communities up and down the country and to have a dialogue with people about the role of the Speaker, the foundation of democracy and how Parliament and politics is changing.
“It is especially important to meet with young people, where there can be a terrible disengagement.
“My aim is to try and break down the barriers and to listen to people and that is why I was delighted to be able to visit the college.”
Politics and government college students, along with history and economics students and 30 children from High Tunstall College of Science packed into the lecture theatre to hear Mr Bercow speak for around 30 minutes.
He then took questions and then led a workshop with politics students before making his way to Middlesbrough and Redcar as part of a regional tour.
Matthew Calvert, 16, from Easington Village, is studying history, politics, English language and literature and he aspires to be a political journalist.
Matthew, who asked what Mr Bercow thought of Education Secretary Michael Gove’s recent comments about standards of education in East Durham, said: “I have a keen interest in politics and it was great to be able to listen to Mr Bercow.”
Paige Johns, 16, from Peterlee, who is studying history, politics, English Language and sociology, said: “I find politics very interesting and we were really pleased that Mr Bercow came into college to speak to us.”
English, politics and biology student Mollie Hall, 16, also from Peterlee, said: “It was great to have someone of his experience visiting.”
Lecturer Alison Coutts, head of history and politics, said: “This was a brilliant opportunity to have somebody who is at the heart of Westminster, to come in and speak to the students at the college about his own role and that of the House of Commons.
“Mr Bercow has a lot of experience and it was a fantastic opportunity for the student to listen to him and ask their questions.”