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Friday, 19 November, 1999, 16:42 GMT
Children join online Parliament
The website is designed to help pupils learn about Parliament

A website giving school children the chance to make their own virtual Act of Parliament has been launched.

The site is designed to help children learn more about how Parliament works, and over the coming weeks, schools will be able to use it to take part in a debate on health and smoking.

The mock legislation has already been published as a White Paper and had its first reading, and will reach committee stage next January.

Pupils will hold debates in class, and then vote over the internet.

The fictitious Bill includes proposals on the minimum age for buying and smoking tobacco products, smoking in public places, the availability of nicotine patches and the treatment of smoking-related illnesses on the National Health Service.

Launching the site on Friday, the Leader of the House of Commons, Margaret Beckett, said: "It is important that we do what we can to stir enthusiasm in young people for their Parliament and its political and cultural heritage.

"Making information available on the internet means that pupils from all around the country and from all backgrounds can benefit from the wealth of online information."

'Tricky questions'

  • Schoolchildren were on Friday being given the chance to question MPs, including some Cabinet ministers, about the state of the country.

    Education Secretary David Blunkett was among those being questioned by children in their constituencies as part of the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is also planning to submit himself to questions from a panel of young people in his Sedgefield constituency, but a spokesman for Mr Blair said no date had yet been arranged.

    Sarah Vincent, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), which is organising the event, said: "In the past, MPs have said the children's questions were among the most tricky they have ever had to handle - even harder than in the House of Commons."
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    See also:
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