A group of 21 Sheffield Hallam University students visited the Houses of Parliament as part of a public affairs and media law field trip.
The students, and three staff, had a guided tour of the Lords and Commons before spending more than one hour grilling their MP Paul Blomfield in a special Q&A that was held in one of the committee rooms. Students quizzed Labour MP Blomfield – who represents 36,000 students in his Sheffield central constituency – on tuition fees, rents, MPs expenses, fracking, homeless people and the threat to Labour posed by the Green party.
But the highlight of the visit came later when the group were invited to sit in the public gallery of the Commons to observe the emergency debate tabled by Labour on the breaking news story concerning revelations of tax avoidance on behalf of the HSBC bank.
The story, broken by the Guardian and BBC Panorama earlier the same day, forced Treasury minister David Gauke to appear before the Commons to defend the government’s efforts to clamp down on tax evasion. As a result the students – who are due to sit NCTJ exams in Public Affairs and Media Law in April – had a ringside seat as Gauke answered questions from opposition MPs including Dennis Skinner and Chris Bryant.