Good morning everyone.
I’m not sure about you, Mr Speaker, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen these benches looking quite so energetic as they do this morning!
I’m delighted to open this year’s Youth Parliament - a fantastic opportunity for all of you, and I’m sure you will do your regions proud today.
I would like to start by asking, who here has been told ‘young people don’t really understand politics’, or ‘you’re too young to be interested in politics’?
Too often, young people are made to feel patronised, or worse still, excluded from politics.
The Youth Parliament is one of the small ways we can demonstrate that the voices of young people belong in politics, and they belong in this Parliament.
Mr Speaker has, over the years, been a great advocate for young people, and I feel just as passionately about removing barriers to politics.
I was delighted that as Leader of the House, the motion on the order paper, which allows the Youth Parliament to sit, went down in my name, and commanded cross-party support.
It’s that cross-party consensus that, in my role as Leader, I work hard to foster wherever possible.
As Parliament’s representative in Government, it’s my job to communicate the goings-on of the chamber to the Prime Minister and her cabinet.
That includes the various requests made or concerns raised by my opposite number and Shadow Leaders - and I’m pleased to say the cut and thrust of the debating chamber does not always reflect the very collegiate working relationship between many of us across parties.
The second part of my role, representing government in Parliament, is focused on getting legislation through this House. In this session there is a big focus on our Brexit bills, but of course we are also working hard to get our domestic legislation through the House, too.
My ambition for this Parliament, as Leader of the House, is to prove this is a ‘listening government’.
I am determined to deliver on the will of the British people, in last year’s referendum, but I recognise that the best way to achieve that is by listening to the views of both parliamentarians and the public.
The process of legislation for Brexit can be a positive one, that proves we are capable of working together and putting the country above all else.
In many ways we could learn more from the Youth Parliament, than they can from us.
Your green benches are more diverse than ours, with a better gender balance, and representatives from a wider range of ethnic and religious backgrounds.
And we can learn so much from the priorities you have identified for today’s debate. They are not only issues that impact young people, but across society:
- improving our transport systems
- work experience hubs - a great idea, which I’m looking forward to hearing more about
- continually striving to improve LGBT+ rights
So, I really hope you get a lot out of today - I know we will.
I’m looking forward to reading Hansard, and hearing your views on these important subjects.
And finally, I hope you’ll carry on proving that young people aren’t just interested in politics, they are very much a part of politics.