How to lobby your MP
Once elected, an MP’s job is to represent the people of their constituency in Parliament, whether or not you voted for him or her. Generally Members will only deal with issues raised by their own constituents and not with issues raised by constituents of other Members.
How to find out who your MP is
- Find the name of your local MP by logging on to www.locata.co.uk
- You can telephone the House of Commons Information Office - 0207 219 4272
You can go to the library and look them up in Dod’s Parliamentary Companion, which gives a brief profile on each MP. Vacher’s Parliamentary Guide is another source of useful information for finding out which committees your MP is involved with.
It may be worth finding out whether they are a member of an all party group such as the All Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Violence? Are they a member of any violence against women groups? Have they spoken about the issue in parliament? Or signed an Early Day Motion?
How to contact your local MP
- Write to them at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. Writing a letter rather than telephoning is a good idea as you can ask your MP to raise this issue with the relevant minister and request a written response to your concerns.
- If you need to phone you can contact your MP's office at the House of Commons by phoning 020-7219 3000 and asking to be put through to his/her office. When Parliament is ‘in recess’, it is sometimes possible to contact your MP by phoning his or her local constituency office. Your local library or town hall should be able to give you the phone number.
- Some MPs use e-mail. You can check the list of MPs on the Internet at the Parliamentary Web site: www.parliament.uk/directories/hciolists/alms.cfm to see if they provide an e-mail contact address.
Meeting your local MP
MPs are usually at the House of Commons in Westminster Monday to Thursday and spend Fridays in their local constituency.
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 – MP’s surgeries are usually advertised in local papers and public libraries. Your MP's local party office will also be able to advise you when your MP will next be holding a surgery.
What can your MP do to help?
- Your MP may, in response to your concern, write to the relevant department or official, or write to the Minister involved, or make an appointment to see the Minister personally.
- Your MP may decide to raise the issue in the House of Commons in front of the press and public. For example, by
- Asking Oral Questions – Ministers answer questions on a rota basis and there is a limit to the number that can be asked.
- Tabling a written question to the appropriate Secretary of State. The replies are written by civil servants, but they have to be approved by Ministers.The answers to these questions are then published in Hansard.
- Adjournment Debates - Your MP may also try to raise the issue in the half-hour Adjournment Debates, usually set at the end of the day, although they must be chosen from a ballot or by the Speaker to do this.
- Early Day Motions - Although EDMs are very rarely debated, this gives MP’s a chance to place on record their opinion on a subject and also gauge support for it from other MP’s who sign up to agreeing with the EDM.
Publicity from these methods may be helpful in persuading a Minister to change his or her mind. If your MP is a Minister or Parliamentary Private Secretary or Opposition spokespeople they may be restricted in doing some of the above.
- You can ask your MP to table an amendment to a Bill going through parliament, for example an amendment to ensure safe contact in the Children and Adoption Bill 2005. Or they could vote for or against an amendment to a Bill.
You can ask your MP to use his/her position on a relevant committee to support a Women’s Aid campaign or to raise domestic violence as an issue.
Your MP could join the All Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Violence.
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.
MPs will usually give more attention to a letter from a constituent than from an organisation - even those they support. They are sensitive to the opinion of their electorate.
You can write a letter, fax or email to your local MP on the issues that you want to raise.
Remember to -
- Identify yourself as a constituent
- Keep the letter brief but do enclose any relevant reports
- Be clear about what you are asking your MP to do
- Request a reply
If you want to arrange some form of public protest locally, you need to inform the local police station of your intentions well in advance. If your MP is supportive, you could ask her/him to add a statement of support for any press release you do.