Constituents' surgeries

If you already have a case with me and would like to make an appointment to visit one of my constituents' advice surgeries, please contact my office to make an appointment. Surgeries are usually held during a weekday afternooon/evening in Ilford.

Please note: the vast majority of cases are usually dealt with by my staff over the phone or through written correspondence. It is therefore unlikely that a surgery appointment will be offered in the first instance.

MPs can only deal with personal matters and casework for their own constituents, in my case Ilford South.

The House of Commons Information Office publishes guides to what MPs do, including advice about surgeries. You can find out more from Parliament's website or download a copy of You and your MP - some sections from this document are reproduced below.

What can your MP do to help you?

Many people think that their MP is there to solve all their problems for them: this is not the case.MPs are there to help only with those matters for which Parliament or central government is responsible. 

In England, if your problem is not local in nature (such as council tax, or local social services, or day to day problems in schools) but instead concerns central government policies (such as the National Health Service, HM Revenue and Customs who collect the bulk of tax and pay child benefit and tax credits, and the Department of Work and Pensions who deal with issues such as benefits, pensions and national insurance) then you should contact your Member of Parliament.

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 often 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, housing repairs or public lavatories.

How does your MP deal with your problems?

Where your problem does require that you contact your MP, there are 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 maladministration, your MP may be able to take your case to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (also called the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration). The Ombudsman is sometimes able to resolve such cases where there has been administrative incompetence but can only be approached via your MP, you cannot approach the Ombudsman directly.

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.

  • Oral Questions - 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. Similarly, your MP can table a written question to the appropriate Government department. The answers to these questions are then published in Hansard.
  • Adjournment Debates - 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.
  • Early Day Motions - At other times, your MP may prefer to draw attention to the matter by what is called an Early Day Motion. Although EDMs are very rarely 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 .
  • Private Members’ Bill - 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.

These methods can all produce results and sometimes the publicity may be helpful in persuading a Minister to change his or her mind. Please note that the Code of Conduct for Ministers means that Ministers are not able to pursue these courses of action.

8 October 2009

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