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13 July, 2006

Competition winners put top politicians and journalists on the spot

Pupils put top politicians and journalists on the spot at the awards ceremony for the National Political Journalism and National Youth Parliament Competitions at the House of Lords yesterday. David Cameron, Sir Menzies Campbell, Lord Falconer and other Ministers awarded the winners of the Competitions at a high-profile reception before the students visited 10 Downing Street to enjoy tea with Cherie Booth QC.

Martha Kearney was asked by pupils from St Colman’s College Newry whether she thought her bosses at the BBC were worth their £650,000 annual salaries, as reported in Wednesday’s papers, while First News Editor, Nicky Cox was asked by Jamie Stern Weiner if journalists should be held responsible for what they write or choose not to write, particularly in relation to international humanitarian crises, the subject of his winning newspaper article. Ronan, Jack, Nial and Oisin from St Colman’s College in Newry’s winning broadcast entry was a 5 minute piece on tuition fees.

David Cameron was put on the spot by Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys about the NHS and Bridget Prentice was asked to defend the government’s position on nuclear energy. The Lord Chancelor, Lord Falconer was asked if PMQs had any real effect or whether they were just a chance to score points?

Organised by the Citizenship Foundation and sponsored by Norwich Union, the National Youth Parliament Competition helps bring to life the process of politics and government by offering young people the opportunity to set up and video their own parliamentary debate. The National Political Journalism Competition invites young people to experience first hand the relationship between politics and the media by tackling a political issue of their choice in print, TV, or radio.

Tony Breslin, Chief executive of the Citizenship Foundation congratulated the school, saying, “healthy democracies need well-informed citizens who understand the democratic process and have the skills and confidence to participate. These active learning competitions help bring this to life by giving young people the opportunity to research and debate issues that are fundamental to their everyday lives. I would like to congratulate all the young people here today for their hard work and excellent entries.”

Lord Falconer Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor presented the Best Question Time award. He said “The National Youth Parliament Competition brings to life the process of parliament, government, and politics for young people. It is an important event that enables young people to develop vital skills and engage with the processes of our democracy."

Bridget Prentice Constitutional Affairs Minister awarding the prize for best Minister and the team award for best press officer, added: “The National Youth Parliament Competition is such an important event, not least because it encourages our young people to engage with our democratic institutions. It is fantastic to see such high levels of participation in the competition and such high quality entries."

Hosted by Lord Andrew Phillips, President of the Citizenship Foundation, National Youth Parliament Competition winners from Simon Langton Boys Grammar School in Canterbury, Westcliff High School for Boys in Southend, Pershore High School in Worcestershire and Melbourn Village College in Cambridgeshire were joined by winners of the National Political Journalism Competition, Jamie Stern-Weiner from Hounslow, Charlotte Kelly from Yorkshire, pupils from St Colman’s College, Newry and the Stanway School and Humanities College in Colchester.

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