History Group Talks October 2013

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                                                              A summary of Mel Stride's talk entitled
                                               A Brief History of Parliament and Reflections of a New MP

He began by giving the meeting an account of how London expanded from a Roman settlement on the north bank of the Thames into the city it is today. This was demonstrated firstly with a look at a mid 16th century map. The Romans brought their supplies up the river. He showed where East and West Minster stood and what eventually became West Minster Abbey (pre Norman). Whitehall Palace and the whole area became the centre of administration. This came about as Royalty, the Church, Wealth and Government were all situated in the one area of London. He touched on the great fire of London, and showed Turner’s painting of the fire 1834 when part of the building was destroyed. However Westminster Hall survived as did the iconic Church Tower with the famous ‘Big Ben’ is situated. Big Ben is the name of the BELL not the clock as so many people think. A view of Westminster lit up by night was quite amazing. There has been constant repairs due to some of the stonework deteriorating over the years. Other buildings that play their part in the running of parliament were shown, for instance, Portcullis House which houses some  M. P’s. 3500 people are employed in various ways within the parliamentary system, researchers, librarians, and clerical staff etc. Mel Stride emphasised the fact that parliament and the members are accessible to the public and the debates can be observed directly from the public galleries as well as through the modern media of radio and television. Westminster had two direct hits during World War II and a picture of Winston Churchill examining the damage were shown and it was not completely repaired until 1950.  
There is a tremendous amount of security around parliament particularly when high ranking people from foreign countries visit and of course when our Queen comes to open parliament as she does at the beginning of parliamentary sessions. The arrangement of seats was explained, the back benchers and the front benches, the speaker and his duties and power. The speakers chair, the tables etc that are in the house were donated after the war by various members of the commonwealth. Hansard - the official record of everything said in parliament - was explained. The queen when she opens parliament reads the programme of what her government hopes to include in the next ligature session. She , as history demands goes to the House of Lords, Black Rod is then sent to the House of Commons and summons them to attend the higher House, this he does by knocking three times on the door of the Commons which was closed in his face - all part of protocol - to hear what she has to say.
The House of Commons is the only place in the land that she is NOT permitted to go. She sits on a special Golden Throne brought in for the occasion.  In 1097 The Great Hall was built with its fantastic roof timbers. This is where Royalty is placed when lying in state. 1649 - a engraving of when Charles I was tried for treason was shown as were several other prints and photographs. This made for a very informative and interesting talk that was enjoyed by all. Mel Stride than completed his talk by remarking on his experience particularly when he made his ‘Maiden Speech‘. This by protocol should include something about the area that he represents, past M. Ps. of the constituency and their achievements and then his contribution to the debate in hand. His final words made us aware that he is very conscious of his duty to the whole constituency, those who put him there and those who did not vote for him. The fact that he is there to serve the whole community was very evident and that be should be available for all to meet him and explain their concerns or otherwise. A good talk delivered with clarity and a little humour and interest to us all. The possibility of a visit to Parliament by members of Widecombe History Group is now firmly on the cards. Watch this space !!


The information on this page was last modified on October 11 2013 11:35:20.

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