On 11 November, the House of Commons debating chamber will be full as usual. But the elected representatives present will be a lot younger than the usual MPS. It is the annual sitting of the UK Youth Parliament: more than 300 11-18-year-olds will debate five subjects that were chosen in a vote by almost a million teenagers.
The debaters are MYPs: Members of the U.K. Youth Parliament. Any 11-18-year-old British resident can be a candidate, or vote for the MYPs. MYPs are elected for a year. Each MYP represents a local authority (a regional council area). Young people in each area can vote, either online, or on paper, often in schools and youth clubs.
MYPs spend their year in office meeting adult elected officials, campaigning and raising awareness of issues important to young people.
At the Westminster sitting on 11 November, the MYPs will debate five subjects which were chosen from a list of ten in a national online consultation:
- Votes at 16
- A Curriculum to prepare us for life
- Stop cuts that affect the NHS
- Tackling racism and religious discrimination
Lowering the voting age has long been a demand from the Youth Parliament, which was created in 2000. The voting age was dropped to 16 for the 2014 independence referendum in Scotland, and was widely perceived to re-engage young people with the democratic process.
At the Westminster sitting, all the usual parliamentary roles are played by the MEPs, with exception of the Speaker, who organises the debate. The actual Westminster Speaker, John Bercow, presides the debates. MYPs take up roles on the front and back benches, and as clerks, recording the decisions. The MYPs then spend the rest of the year lobbying and communicating about the topics they have chosen to campaign on.
Houses of Parliament/Jessica Taylor