Last month, we welcomed 35 Commonwealth Scholars to the Palace of Westminster for the CSC’s annual Parliamentary Reception in collaboration with the Council for Education in the Commonwealth’s Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP) Support Group and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK (CPA UK).

The event gave Scholars the chance to learn about the workings of the UK Parliament and the role played by Parliamentarians in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

This year, we were pleased to welcome guest speakers The Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, Minister of State (Development and Africa) at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and Conservative Member of Parliament for Sutton Coldfield; The Baroness Sherlock OBE, Shadow Spokesperson for Work and Pensions and Labour Member of the House of Lords; and Seema Malhotra MP, Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) and Labour (Co-Op) Member of Parliament for Feltham and Heston.

Scholars first heard from the event co-organisers, Jon Davies (CPA UK), The Lord Leong CBE, Dr Joanna Newman MBE, and Professor Robin Mason ORB, who offered a warm welcome to the talented group of future Commonwealth Alumni attending the event and commended their achievements in obtaining a Commonwealth Scholarship. The co-organisers strongly encouraged Scholars to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from those at the event.

Learning from UK Parliamentarians

Minister Mitchell, whose pre-recorded talk was broadcast during the event, welcomed Scholars to Parliament and spoke about the importance of scholarships to the UK government. Minister Mitchell highlighted the impact made by so many who have been awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship and encouraged the current cohort of Scholars to realise their potential for development impact on their return home after their award.

After this, The Baroness Sherlock OBE discussed her role as a Member of the House of Lords (Peer) and the function of Parliament’s second chamber in reviewing proposed legislation. Baroness Sherlock spoke about her experience as a peer and the important role of the House of Lords serves in scrutinising bills from the House of Commons as well as holding MPs to account and cross-party working. She took some excellent questions from Scholars, and offered important insights into the process by which a bill becomes law.

The next speaker at the event was Seema Malhotra, a longstanding MP for Feltham and Heston and a current Shadow Minister in the House of Commons. In her talk, Seema Malhotra explored the workings of the House of Commons, using the agenda from that day as an example of what is typically discussed in the Commons. She talked about her role in the shadow government and the importance of understanding the ministerial brief in relation to current issues. Scholars asked several questions after Seema Malhotra’s talk ranging from how best to engage with communities when building on brownfield sites to what is meant by the 10-minute rule bills from backbench MPs.

The history of Parliament

After the talks, Scholars had the opportunity to discuss their own work and put questions to guest Parliamentarians over tea and cake before joining a tour of the Palace of Westminster where they learned about the history of the building and discovered some interesting events that have taken place in those hallowed halls.

Thank you to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK (CPA UK), Parliament Visitor Services, and the Council for Education in the Commonwealth’s (CEC) Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP) Support Group for supporting this event.