Have you ever contacted your local MP and wondered why you never got a formal reply? It might be worth checking that you didn’t accidentally make one of the three simple mistakes listed below. They’re very easy to make – especially if you’re in a rush or a rage; and the world of public affairs is notoriously difficult to navigate, if you’re new to it.
1: Have you sent your request in the right way, to the right person and to the right address? A good place to start if you’re looking for an MP is the www.parliament.uk/website. If you put in your home postcode, then your constituency and MPs details will come up. The best way of contacting your local MP is by letter (almost always the House of Commons rather than the constituency address). If you need some help, you can always call the House of Commons Information Office on 020 7219 4272.
2: Have you double-checked that the MP can do what you’re asking him/her to do? An MP (without ministerial responsibilities) can do various things to help you move your issue forward:
- Write a letter to the relevant department or official
- Write to the Minister involved
- Have a meeting with the right Minister
Public – parlimentary actions
- ask an oral question at Question Time
- put forward an early day motion
- ask to lead a debate in the House of Commons
- raise an issue in the Adjournment debate
- put forward a Private Members Bill
If you’ve contacted an MP with ministerial responsibilities (eg parliamentary private secretaries or Secretary of States) s/he can’t question Government policy through Parliament (eg ask questions). Opposition spokespeople may also be restricted by internal party rules.
3: Is parliament in recess? This could be slowing the response time. Parliament doesn’t sit all year round. During recess, MPs can carry out their other duties. The recess calendar is not set in stone – it changes; and it’s normally slightly different for the two Houses (Commons/Lords). Again the parliament.uk website details recess dates.
Please do add a comment. I’d be interested to hear if other people have come across simple, practical reasons as to why their MP letters didn’t get a formal response.