Libby McEnhill (University of Huddersfield)

Undertaking an internship during my PhD was something that I had been considering for a while before I received details of the PSA’s new scheme, in conjunction with the Committee Office of the House of Commons. My research is on British politics, and, quite liking the idea of going to work in the Palace of Westminster every day, I decided to apply.

I started my placement in November 2013, and was initially placed with the Scottish Affairs Committee (SAC) for three months. It quickly became apparent that Scottish Affairs is an extremely busy committee: at one point during my placement there were six active inquiries, all placing significant demands on the Committee’s staff. As such, at the request of the Committee Clerks, my placement was extended and I worked for the Committee for a total of six months.

I was initially assigned to work on the Committee’s inquiry into Blacklisting in Employment. Later, as the stage of the inquiry that I was responsible for drew to a close, I worked on two further inquiries: the Impact of the Bedroom Tax in Scotland, and the Referendum on Separation for Scotland (Pensions and Benefits). I contributed to a full range of Committee work across these three inquiries, from identifying appropriate witnesses and arranging evidence sessions, through researching and writing briefing notes for Committee Members, and finally analysing the evidence obtained and drafting Committee reports. The SAC often prefers to publish short interim reports on some inquiries, and this worked well with the structure of the internship: I was able to take responsibility for discreet sections of on-going inquiries and complete these during the short time available. The Committee has now published two reports that I was responsible for working on, on Blacklisting and the Bedroom Tax.

In addition to working with the Committee, I attended a number of other activities in order to get a feel for how parliament works. I considered myself to have a good understanding of the British parliamentary system before I started my placement, but was still surprised by the range of work that goes on behind the scenes! A lot of these activities were guided by my own interests – such as attending debates and the meetings of other committees – and I appreciated the opportunity to pursue these during the early weeks of my placement. I was also really pleased that the Committee Clerks managed to obtain a ticket for me to attend Prime Minister’s Questions, as this was something that I had been keen to do for some time.

My experience working for the Committee was hugely valuable. I was able to apply the skills and knowledge that I have been developing through my PhD, while also gaining a fresh perspective on my own research. Equally important, my placement was really enjoyable and has contributed to broadening my ideas on the sort of work that I might like to do once my PhD is finished. I cannot recommend the programme enough, and wouldn’t hesitate to encourage others to apply in future.


Image: Maurice