At this time of heightened interest in the work of MPs I thought it might be helpful to write a few pieces on what an MP can do, and how MPs typically go about their jobs. One week remains before we all cease to be MPs at the end of this Parliament, and the public chooses who they wish to do the work after May 8th.
One of the central roles of any MP is to be the constituency’s main voice to Ministers. We are there to lobby Ministers to improve or amend national policies, to change laws, to deal with mistakes made by government with our constituents’ cases and to seek better treatment for our constituency within any agreed national policy. We are the voices of individuals, groups, and of the whole community where it has a common or strong majority view.
Much of this work takes place through emails, letters and case work exchanges on behalf of constituents. Many cases can be dealt with between the MP’s office and the office of the relevant department or Minister.
Intractable issues, issues of general concern to more constituents, and issues where it is clear the constituency is getting a bad deal from national policy usually warrant a direct exchange between MP and Minister. This can be done in a number of ways. Sometimes I am asked if I know a particular Minister, or if I have ever had a meeting with them. Parliament is a continuous series of meetings between individual MPs, groups of MPs and Ministers. Some happen in public in the Commons itself or in public committee. Many more happen in a variety of MP only meetings. We have backbench committee meetings with Ministers, cross party groups who meet Ministers, special issue meetings with Ministers when there is a general problem, consultation meetings when Ministers are considering changing the law or policy, and party group meetings.
I chair a group of MPs who often meet a Cabinet Minister for a 1 hour working lunch on alternate months when Parliament is in session, and 2 hour working dinners the other months. I chair the Conservative Economic affairs committee which can always invite any Minister from Treasury, Business, Transport, Work and Pensions and Energy to meet us. A Cabinet Minister often attends the 1922 Conservative backbench Committee to answer questions and hear opinions. Most Ministers are available for discussions when you need to make your case.
The present group of Ministers are on the whole very accessible to MPs. They are often about the Commons, providing opportunity to have a working meal with them or an informal meeting. We also have regular contact with Whips, who are there to send back messages to government on what MPs do not like or wish to see changed, as much as to advise us on how the government would like us to vote.