What can your MP help you with?
Please remember that your MP can only act on behalf of his own constituents. There is a strict parliamentary convention preventing MP's from taking up cases on behalf of constituents of other MP's. Your MP will be able to help you deal with an organisation wherever it is based in the country.
If you are unsure of who your MP is, you can check by visiting http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/ or ringing the House of Commons Information Office on 0207 219 4272
Your MP can also only act on behalf of constituents who contact him directly. This means that if you would like your MP to act, for instance, on behalf of a family member, that family member will need to make contact directly. This is necessary to maintain confidentiality between your MP and the individual constituents who contact him. All communications sent to your MP and data stored is completely confidential.
What can your MP do to help you?
Your MP is here to help with 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;
- Problems dealt with by the Department of Health such as hospitals and the National Health Service;
- Problems dealt with by the Department for Work and Pensions such as benefits, pensions and national insurance;
- 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 Skills.
Your MP cannot help you in private disputes with neighbours; nor, for example, can they interfere with decisions made by courts or provide legal advice.
Your MP can provide general advice on planning issues and ask that your views are taken into account in planning decisions but cannot instruct or influence councillors making planning decisions.
How can your MP deal with your 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;
- Your MP may decide to take matters a stage further by writing to the Minister involved;
- Your MP may make 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 mal administration, your MP may be able to take your case to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. She is sometimes able to resolve such cases where there has been administrative incompetence. You can find out more at: http://www.ombudsman.org.uk
There is also a Commissioner for Local Administration (Local Government Ombudsman) who deals with possible mal administration in local government matters. A complainant must give the council concerned an opportunity to deal with a complaint against it first. It is best to use the council's own complaints procedure (http://www.somerset.gov.uk). If you are not satisfied with the action the council takes, you can send a written complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman, or ask a councillor to do so on your behalf. More details are given on the website of the Local Government Ombudsman at: http://www.lgo.org.uk
Raising matters in the House of Commons
All of the methods described so far allow problems to be kept confidential. If David is not satisfied with the answers received, he 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 David may have the chance to do this.
- Written Questions – David can table a written, factual, question to the appropriate Government department which the Government has to answer. The answers to these questions are then published in Hansard
- Adjournment Debates – David Laws may also try to raise your problem in the half-hour Adjournment Debate, which is usually the last business of the day, although there will be competition amongst MP's. for the right to raise matters on adjournment and David must be successful in a ballot
- Early Day Motions - At other times, David may prefer to draw attention to the matter by what is called an Early Day Motion. This allows David to place on record his opinion on a subject and is able to gauge the support of his fellow MP's.
- Private Members’ Bill - If David 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.
These methods can all produce results and sometimes the publicity may be helpful in persuading a Minister to change his or her mind.
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 your MP and must be arranged in a particular format. You can obtain advice on this by contacting the Westminster office (0207 219 8413) or by visiting: http://www.parliament.uk
Who else can help you?
If you feel that your problem really concerns the council (e.g. dustbins, housing, road repairs or public lavatories) rather than central government, then you may wish to contact your local councillor in the first place as they will be best placed to help you. You can, of course, contact your MP if you are still not happy with the service you are receiving from the council.
South Somerset District Council is responsible for:
- refuse collection
- local leisure services such as swimming pools and leisure centres
- environmental health
- local planning
- You can find out who your local District, Town or Parish councillor is at: http://www.southsomerset.gov.uk
You can contact your County Councillor by visiting: http://www.somerset.gov.uk. You can also contact the Council on 01823 355455.
You may also wish to contact the Citizens Advice Bureau for general guidance. You can find the details of you nearest CAB in South Somerset at: http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk