Oxford University’s Bodleian Libraries and the Department of Politics and International Relations hosted the UK Parliament’s Science and Technology Select Committee, chaired by local MP Nicola Blackwood on 19 November. This special sitting in Oxford took place as part of Parliament Week 2015, a programme of events and activities coordinated by the House of Commons.
The occasion gave Oxford the opportunity to mark this year’s historic political anniversaries, commemorating both 1625 and 1665, when Parliament met in the University of Oxford’s Divinity School, which is now part of the Bodleian Library. 2015 is also the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta and marks 750 years since the first De Montfort Parliament.
As happened in 1665, MPs sat in the Divinity School. This time, however, they had an audience of Oxfordshire sixth form students and took evidence on a current committee inquiry, ‘Science in Emergencies: UK lessons from Ebola.’
Dr Elizabeth Frazer, Head of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford University, said: ‘Select committees are part of the way Parliament works, and understanding what they do and how they do it is part of our political education. I’m delighted that we are able to engage with Oxfordshire Sixth Form students at this special event.
In welcoming the committee to Oxford University, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Nick Rawlins said: ‘I welcome the Science and Technology Committee to Britain’s strongest scientific research university. Holding the sitting here represents an exceptional occasion, bringing to life our Oxford Parliament Day and celebrating the historic anniversaries of the 1625 and 1665 Oxford Parliaments.’
Select committees are part of the way Parliament works, and understanding what they do and how they do it is part of our political education.
Dr Elizabeth Frazer, Department of Politics and International Relations
Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, commented: ‘The Bodleian Libraries has been a partner of Parliament Week since the initiative launched in 2011, and we’re delighted to be taking part this year by welcoming Parliament back to the Bodleian, where they met on a number of occasions in the 17th century.
‘It is particularly fitting to have the Science and Technology Select Committee meet in the library, as information that libraries acquire, preserve, and make available to researchers at all levels is key to the success of the knowledge economy.’
Young people participating in Oxfordshire County Council’s Magna Carta-inspired ‘Find Your Voice’ project attended the event with around 80 sixth-formers from secondary schools across the county.
Councillor Lorraine Lindsay Gale, Oxfordshire County Council Cabinet Member for Cultural and Community Services, said: ‘The first sitting of a parliamentary committee in Oxford in 350 years is very significant. I am delighted that our library service has been so instrumental in setting this up.
‘It will encourage young people to understand how parliament and democracy works – a primary focus of the Find Your Voice project. We have been working with over 400 young people in libraries across Oxfordshire during 2015 and this is the high point. It has been incredibly valuable and enjoyable.’