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You and your Member of Parliament

The United Kingdom is divided into 650 constituencies, each of which elect a Member of Parliament (MP) who sits in the House of Commons, located in Westminster, London. This page gives an introduction to their work and the ways in which they might help you.

(Or find information about individual Members of Parliament.)

Your MP

The size of constituencies varies according to a number of factors but on average a constituency will contain approximately 68,000 electors. Your MP gained the right to represent your constituency by receiving more votes than any of the other candidates at the last general election or by–election.

Once elected, the job of an MP is to represent the people of his or her constituency (constituents) in Parliament, whether or not they voted for him or her. You only have one MP so even if you voted for one of the other candidates and you disagree with the views of your MPs party, your MP is still there to help you with all matters for which Parliament or central government is responsible.

Who is my MP?

Find your Member of Parliament or other representatives

Offline, you can ask in your local Public Library or at your local town hall. You can also telephone the House of Commons Information Office (0207 219 4272) but you must be able to give your postcode or full address.

How do I contact my MP?

The best way to contact your MP is to write to him or her at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. All MPs have Westminster offices and will make arrangements for their mail to be dealt with or redirected when they are away from London, so it is much better to write to them here than in their constituency office or at their home address. Writing a letter about a problem, rather than telephoning, is a good idea as you can explain things clearly and your MP will have the written details of your case which he or she may find it useful to refer to later.

… by telephone

You can telephone your MPs office at the House of Commons by telephoning the switchboard (020-7219 3000) and asking to be connected to the appropriate MPs office. It is worth remembering that the Members’ staff are likely to be very busy and may work in a large noisy office so it may not be easy for them to note down complicated and lengthy information. For this reason, it may be better to write. It is also sometimes possible to contact your MP by telephoning his or her local constituency office. Once again, your local library or town hall and, in cases of difficulty, the House of Commons Information Office, should be able to advise you of the constituency contact point.

Whichever method you choose, it is important that you contact your own MP as there is an unwritten rule (known as a convention) in Parliament that MPs deal only with the problems of their own constituents and not with those of another MPs constituents.

… in person

The majority of MPs have times when they are available at different places within their constituency for constituents to meet and discuss problems with them. These sessions are often called surgeries and details are usually advertised in local papers and in such places as public libraries. Your MPs secretary or local party office will also be able to advise you when your MP will next be holding a surgery.

When the House of Commons is sitting, you will be allowed access to the Central Lobby to see your MP. It is best to make an appointment before doing so however, as your MP might have other appointments or engagements elsewhere and not be available to see you.

… by email

A growing number of MPs can be contacted by email. You can check the list of MPs email addresses at the Parliamentary website by following the link below –

www.parliament.uk

Alternatively you could use the service provided by WriteToThem. This allows you to contact your MP and other representatives by email via their website. Just enter you postcode in the box below and you'll be taken to their simple instruction page:



Offline you can contact an MPs office or the House of Commons Information Office (020-7219 4272) to ascertain whether they have an e–mail address.

What can your MP do to help you?

MPs are there to help only with those matters for which Parliament or central government is responsible. Problems often arise with work carried out by central government departments and your MP will be able to help you with such areas as tax problems involving the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise Departments (but not such areas as the council tax which is paid to your local authority); problems dealt with by the Department of Health such as hospitals and the National Health Service; problems dealt with by the Department of Social Security such as benefits, pensions and national insurance (but not problems with the social services department of your local authority); problems dealt with by the Home Office such as immigration and matters such as school closures and grants which are dealt with by the Department for Education and Employment (but not day to day problems involving schools which are run by their governors and your local education authority). Your MP is not there to help you in private disputes with other individuals or with companies who have sold you faulty goods, nor, for example, to interfere with decisions made by courts.

Constituents often take a problem to their MP because they do not know who else could help them. MPs are very generous at giving help and advice and will usually have a local councillor at their constituency surgeries to help those constituents whose problems are connected with the services provided by local authorities such as dustbins, or housing repairs. If you feel that your problem really concerns the council rather than central government, then you should contact your local council or councillor. Your local library or town hall should be able to provide you with your councillor’s name and contact information, or click below to find your council website –

www.direct.gov.uk

If your problem is of a more general nature or you are uncertain where to go for advice, then your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau will be able to guide you. Alternatively, your town hall may run its own general advice centre or be able to direct you towards an independent centre.

Your MP will try to be as helpful as they can but, since he or she has around 68,000 constituents to look after and his or her Parliamentary duties to attend to, this will place limits on the amount of time which can be spent in the constituency. It is then important that they spend their time dealing with problems that relate to them, rather than diverting queries that should have been taken elsewhere.

How does your MP deal with problems?

Where your problem does involve central government, your MP has a number of methods available to try to resolve the matter. A letter from your MP to the relevant department or official will often provide a solution. If not, your MP may decide to take matters a stage further by writing to the Minister involved, or even making an appointment to see the Minister personally.

Many constituents' problems can be solved in this way but not all problems, of course, have an easy solution. The Minister may not be able to give the answer that you wanted to hear but if the decision has been made in the right way, there may be little that can be done. If, on the other hand, there has been unnecessary delay, or if some essential procedure has been missed out, i.e. if there has been maladministration, your MP may be able to take your case to the Ombudsman (Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration). He or she is sometimes able to resolve such cases where there has been administrative incompetence. The Ombudsman can only be approached via your MP, you cannot approach him directly. The Health Service Commissioner can provide similar help where the problem involves the NHS. There is also a Commissioner for Local Administration (Local Ombudsman) who deals with possible maladministration in local government matters. He should be approached through your local councillor.

Raising matters in the House

All of the methods discussed so far allow problems to be kept confidential. If your MP is not satisfied with the answers received, he or she may feel that there is something to be gained by making the matter public and may want to raise the issue in the House of Commons in front of the press and public. There are a number of occasions when your MP may have the chance to do this. The most popular is for your MP to put the Minister on the spot by asking an oral question at Question Time one afternoon. Ministers answer questions at the despatch box on a rota basis and there is a limit to the number of questions which there will be time to ask, so this cannot necessarily be done on a given day; your MP may not be called by the Speaker. Your MP may also try to raise your problem in the half–hour Adjournment Debate, which is usually the last business of the day, although again there will be competition amongst MPs for the right to raise matters on adjournment and your MP must be successful in a ballot or have his or her subject chosen by the Speaker. At other times, your MP may prefer to draw attention to the matter by what is called an Early Day Motion. Although EDMs are not usually debated, your MP will have placed on record his or her opinion on a subject and is able to gauge the support of his or her fellow MPs. Follow the link below to find what EDM's your MP has signed –-

Early Day Motions

These methods can all produce results and sometimes the publicity may be helpful in persuading a Minister to change his or her mind. If your MP becomes aware that your problem is a common one then he or she may try to gain the opportunity to introduce a Private Member's Bill. Only a very few such measures are successful but once again publicity is drawn to the matter and the Minister may be persuaded to make changes in the future.

Petitions

If you and other people feel strongly about a certain issue, you may decide to organise a petition to the House of Commons. Your petition can only be presented by an MP and must be arranged in a particular format. You can obtain advice on this by writing to the Clerk of Public Petitions, Journal Office, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.

Campaigns and lobbying

MPs are often contacted by constituents campaigning on behalf of a particular cause, perhaps representing an organised pressure group. It will be for your MP to decide whether to take any action. Anyone who is intending to organise a “mass lobby” to the House of Commons must contact the Serjeant at Arms Department (020-7219 3060) well in advance.


The above information is derived from the House of Commons Factsheet - Members/Election Series No 1 (with amendments and additions). PARLIAMENTARY COPYRIGHT (HOUSE OF COMMONS) 2000 applies. Reproduction for sale or other commercial purposes not permitted.


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