Mother of Parliaments
It’s 1969 and I finally get round to visiting our Mother of Parliaments. Can’t remember if I hitchhiked or got the train to Paddington, but my bag is searched and I eventually go up to the visitors’ place known as the Strangers’ Gallery where I am one of three.
A previous school visit to the House of Commons where then MP in Cambridge Sir Hamilton Kerr showed us round, illustrated how small the House of Commons was. A deliberate policy since most of the time MPs are at their constituencies or doing other work. Result is that the chamber does not look so empty most of the time but is very crowded in big debates like the Budget, for example. This of course, was before television or even radio was allowed in the chamber.
In the Club?
But am I in the right place? The green seats confirm that I am at the House of Commons but the members there are surely not Members of Parliament? Like layabout schoolboys, they are lounging on the seats, some with feet on the rows of seats in front. Uniformed servants known as Waiters carry messages from one MP to another. One member is speaking with most of the 20 members paying little attention to the debate. I feel that I have gatecrashed a gentlemen’s club in St James’s rather than watching our elected representatives.
Next item, Should we legalise cannabis? This becomes a lively debate. One Conservative MP gets some headlines in the Press the next day saying it should not be legalised while “considering myself well-addicted to alcohol and tobacco” Ha, ha. Against this and the only voice, is Andrew Faulds actor turned MP who says everything except that he has smoked cannabis.
The Open University
Last item on the order paper of the day is Third Reading of the Open University Bill which means that it can be set up by Royal Charter. With cross-party support there is little debate, so the bill goes to division and is passed. And now 50 years later, yours truly finds himself there as a mature student, working for a B Sc in Maths and Physics while drawing the State Pension.