Elvis spotted in the Houses of Parliament

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By | From the Collections

How would you like to enter a world to which only the rare few are invited? Where views are vigorously challenged and equivocations pounced upon by the powerful? Perhaps you would rather be a ‘fly on the wall’, able to eavesdrop without being discovered. In that case this suggestion could be for you. The Medicine and Society Collection contains reports which faithfully record the conversations of highly regarded experts. These experts are encouraged to express their opinions but also subjected to searching questions. These exchanges can be found in the Houses of Parliament Select Committee reports.

Lurking behind such profoundly undramatic titles as ‘Further Education (FE) Fourth Report of Session 2005-6’ and sandwiched between the formal minutes and written evidence, is the section called oral evidence. It is here that some engaging dialogue between Members of Parliament and their guests occur:

Mr Marsden: I will not pursue your analogy and ask you to name 10 famous people in FE, but what I will do- Sir Andrew Foster: Stephen Fry is one! Darren Campbell is a second. Chairman: Paul MacCartney, Jamie Oliver Mr Marsden: Okay I stand corrected..

or even:

Dr Chilton: Let me share with you an analogy which we did not use… FE is like Belgium Chairman: Why, because nobody knows anything about it?

But it is not all light-hearted banter and attempts at humour. Important and significant considerations affecting government strategy are brought to light in these processes. These inform decision-making and have an impact on how health and education services develop.

The Medicine and Society Collection contains information about how scientists start and progress in their careers, including the institutions and funding bodies that support them. This is why reports that deal with issues of higher and further education can be found here. This is just one of some 500 select committee reports dating back to 1990, covering topics like diabetes and driving, climate change and the safety of MRI scanners (featuring a memorandum from the Wellcome Trust). Whoever titled this last MRI report (possibly an Elvis Costello fan) couldn’t resist a pun despite the weighty subject matter. It is named ‘Watching the directives’. Who would have thought politics could be so wry?

Images: 1. Justus von Liebig and eight others seated in a committee, c 1870 2. The Information Committee listens to the Hansard Society during the first evidence session of the People and Parliament inquiry. Committee photograph courtesy of UK Parliament .

Danny Rees

Danny Rees

Hi, I am Danny Rees, an Engagement Officer for the Wellcome Library, one of my interests is the human face; its physiognomy, expressions and ideas about what constitutes beauty. When not at work I enjoy the Kent countryside and consider radio to be one of the best things in life.

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