#budget2016 @altoncollege

Alton College Students’ Union hosted a Q&A session with Damian Hinds, MP for East Hampshire as part of the talks@altoncollege initiative. Leading the debate were first female President Fawziyyah Hamid, previously at Mill Chase School, Vice-President Chris Jordan and Marketing Officer Rory Page, both previously at Robert May’s School and the Treloars representative, Samuel Cornelius-Light. The talk called ‘The Budget, The Economy and Economics’ took place in the Wessex Arts Theatre to an audience of Economics, Government and Politics, Law and Business Studies students eager to hear their local MP’s thoughts on the recent budget and to question him about government policies, tax and the economy.

Mr Hinds started by explaining to students that they ‘…are the cream of the crop in academia in East Hampshire’.  He went on: ‘You are lucky to be growing up in such a good area with lots of opportunities.’ Before taking questions he talked about his experience of studying Economics at A level and undergraduate level, reminding students about the principal of ‘scarcity, choice and opportunity’ and stating ‘only from looking at what happened in the past can we shape the economic future.’

Answering questions from students, Mr Hinds covered topics varying from the EU referendum (question by Ali Bayliss, previous at Perins School who will go on to study at Cambridge University in September), the impact of the recent budget on education, whether or not university tuition fees are good value for money, the quality of care provided by the NHS and how it can be improved, corporation tax, the voting system and why he voted against lowering the legal voting age and how important citizens’ happiness is. There was lively debate from the floor with one student asking for his thoughts on changing the House of Lords, to which Mr Hinds replied: ‘I am a Conservative, the intrinsic meaning of conservative means we don’t like change!’

In addition to the Q&A session, Mr Hinds met two students as part of National Apprenticeship Week who are currently studying the Foundation Degree in Engineering at Alton College, awarded by the University of Portsmouth, alongside their apprenticeships. Matt Hall is working at Clarcor Industrial Air, providing industrial filtration solutions and Olivia Castro, previously at Bohunt, has progressed from Level 2 Engineering through Level 3 and now onto the Foundation Degree alongside her apprenticeship at Alton Electrical Services Ltd and Out and About Mobility.

Live tweets from the event twitter.com/altoncollege

More photos Facebook.com/altoncollege

Tom Brailey, previously at The Petersfield School, editor of The Alternative, the College magazine covered the event -

'The Wessex Arts Theatre is often abuzz when an MP or famous face visits the college. Friday 18 March was no different as Damian Hinds, conservative MP for the East Hampshire constituency, came to Alton College to give students an in depth understanding of ‘The Budget, The Economy, and Economics’.

The event began outside the Wessex Arts Theatre, where the Alton College Student Union, headed by Fawziyyah Hamid, members of The Alternative, and students taking the college’s Foundation Degree in Engineering, met informally with Hinds and his team over sandwiches, and chatted about a wide and contrasting range of topics, from the subjects the students were taking, to Hinds’ favourite books, to the lack of Saturday jobs that are available for students today. I was fortunate enough to talk to Amanda Gallagher, a member of Hinds’ team, about the college. We discussed the college magazine and the other extra curricular activities available at Alton College, the success of the Student Union over the past two years, and the EU referendum. Gallagher argued that one of the outcomes of the referendum will certainly ‘bring uncertainty’.

By half past twelve, the Wessex Arts Theatre was almost completely full and a constant hum of politics resonated from wall to wall. Hinds started the talk by getting an idea of the subjects the audience were taking, and to those who did not take economics Hinds asked jokingly, ‘did you come to the wrong gig?’ He then went on to summarise his role as an MP, working with George Osborne, and his role covering tobacco, alcohol, and a whole range of products and services. Hinds was able to put a humorous spin on tax, saying that spending is ‘popular’ while tax, clearly, is ‘unpopular’.  He spoke positively about the one hundred and fifty four page budget book that has just been released, arguing that ‘economics is in the heart of policy decisions’. The talk, which lasted around twenty minutes, saw Hinds throw his hands as he spoke fervently about his love of all things British, his PPE degree at Trinity, Oxford, and what he would like to see our generation, ‘the cream of the crop’,  studying at university.

A question and answer session commenced after the talk which generated an unprecedented amount of discussion. One of the first questions asked regarded the EU referendum, to which Hinds stated that, controversially, he would not defend the EU, but he would not leave it either, and in order to maintain a healthy and interconnected status, staying in the EU would benefit all. London was praised during the discussion for its opportunities for the young and disadvantaged members of society; Hinds argued that all school and colleges should follow in their footsteps, as even today there is still an economic, social, and ethnic gap in schools. Hinds answered honestly to all the questions, even if it was an answer that a student did not want to hear. When asked if he thought lowering the voting age would be beneficial, Hinds answered that it did not really concern him and that there has to be a limit somewhere, otherwise it would be changing constantly. Even when a particularly heated debate developed, such as the question of corporation taxes, raised by student Jonathan Berg, Hinds remained calm, charismatic, and fair. The final question regarding the reform of the House of Lords saw Hinds give an frank summary of his party’s ideologies - ‘I am a Conservative, the intrinsic meaning of conservative means we don’t like change!’

Hinds was able to deal with a vast array of complex, and sometimes sensitive, topics with ease, while also making his answers accessible to students. Even if topics such as corporation tax, the NHS, and the EU referendum did not hail a unanimous verdict, Hinds certainly won the respect of many students by putting forth some excellent perspectives and immersing himself in all of the debates.