Parliament meets in Oxford for the first time in 350 years | University of Oxford

Parliament meets in Oxford for the first time in 350 years

19 November 2015

The Bodleian Libraries and the Department of Politics and International Relations are hosting the UK Parliament’s Science and Technology Select Committee, chaired by local MP Nicola Blackwood. This special sitting in Oxford will take place as part of Parliament Week 2015, a programme of events and activities coordinated by the House of Commons.

The occasion offers an opportunity for Oxford 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 will sit in the Divinity School. This time, however, they will have an audience of Oxfordshire Sixth Form students and will take 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 says, ‘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 the Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Nick Rawlins says, ‘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.’

Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian said, ‘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.'

Nicola Blackwood MP says, ‘I’m pleased to be in my home city of Oxford to chair this special session of the Science & Technology Select Committee as part of Parliament Week. This Committee has never met outside London before and it is inspiring to be in the Divinity School which has an historic link with Parliament.’

Young people participating in Oxfordshire County Council’s Magna Carta inspired Find Your Voice project will be attending the event alongside up to 80 sixth formers from secondary schools across the county.
Cllr 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.’

For more information, contact the University of Oxford News Office on +44 (0)1865 280534 or email: news.office@admin.ox.ac.uk

Notes for Editors:

  • PICTURES ARE AVAILABLE TO MEDIA ON REQUEST
  • The Select Committee will sit at 2pm.

The members of the Science & Technology Committee attending are:
Chair and local MP Nicola Blackwood (Conservative)
Chris Green (Conservative)
Carol Monaghan (Scottish National Party)
Valerie Vaz (Labour)
Dr Tania Mathias (Conservative)
Derek Thomas (Conservative)

Why parliament met in Oxford in 1625 and 1665:

The History:
2015 sees the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta (the Bodleian Library has four engrossments, including three charters dating from 1217 and one from 1225).
It has been 390 years since the Commons met in the University of Oxford’s Divinity School in 1625 (to avoid the plague prevalent in London).
It has been 350 years since the Lords and the Commons met in Oxford in 1665 (in the Geometry School and Convocation House respectively).
Parliament has met in the Divinity School on another two occasions: in 1644, when Charles 1 brought his Court to Oxford during the Civil War, and in 1681, the year of the “exclusion” Parliament.

Parliament Week: 
16 – 22 November 2015 Parliament Week is a programme of events and activities that connects people with Parliament and democracy in the UK. It is coordinated by the House of Commons. Further information: http://www.ukparliamentweek.org/

About the Bodleian Libraries:
The Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford form the largest university library system in the United Kingdom. They include the principal University library – the Bodleian Library – which has been a library of legal deposit for 400 years; major research libraries; and libraries attached to faculties, departments and other institutions of the University. The combined library collections number more than 11 million printed items, in addition to 80,000+ e-journals and vast quantities of materials in other formats. For more information, visit www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk

About the Department of Politics and International Relations:
Oxford University’s Department of Politics and International Relations is one of the largest departments for research and teaching in international relations, politics, government and political theory in the UK. For more information, visit www.politics.ox.ac.uk

Funding:
The Project is supported by Oxfordshire County Council’s Find Your Voice project. With funding from the Magna Carta Trust and the Arts Council, Find Your Voice is a new arts and democracy programme to encourage young people to be active citizens.