Page last updated at 22:18 GMT, Monday, 16 March 2009

Youth to meet in Commons chamber

Gordon Brown at PMQs
The youngsters will get a feel of what it is like on the green benches

MPs have voted to allow members of the Youth Parliament to hold a meeting on the floor of the House of Commons.

The move, resisted by several Conservative MPs, will see the chamber being used other than by members of the lower house for the first time.

Opponents said the Commons would abandon its traditions by agreeing, and set a precedent for other groups.

The Youth Parliament, whose 500 elected members are aged between 11 and 18, is expected to convene during the summer.

This summer's meeting will be a one-off event after the Youth Parliament held a gathering in the House of Lords last year.

A vote to allow the move was backed by a majority of 189 with 16 MPs opposing it.

First-hand experience

An amendment suggesting the meeting take place instead in a Westminster committee room was defeated by 186 votes.

Supporters say the exercise will give young people, and potential future parliamentarians, first-hand experience of what life is like in Parliament and improve engagement with politics.

Shadow children's minister Tim Loughton said MPs had nothing to be "scared of" in sanctioning the move.

"Are we seriously thinking that we will have UKYP members leaving gum under the seats, swinging from the chandeliers, having to install juke boxes and that we are going to have a major chav riot in the place?" he said.

"No, of course that isn't going to happen."

But Conservative backbencher Christopher Chope said the move sent the message there was a similarity between members of a "mock parliament and a real parliament".

"It will send out a message from this Parliament that we are indulging the youth parliament, that we are patronising young people in an unhealthy way," he said.

The Youth Parliament, established in 1999, works to provide opportunities for teenagers to use their voice to bring about social and political change.

Elections to the Parliament take place each year in every part of the UK, with anyone between 11 and 18 eligible to stand or vote.

Once elected, members (MYPs) work with their MPs, councillors, school and youth councils and peer group members on the issues of greatest concern to their constituents.

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