MPs and Members of the House of Lords

Contacting a Member of Parliament or Member of the House of Lords is a good way to raise political awareness about research or issues flowing from your research that you think should impact on particular policy decisions.

Members of Parliament

Members of Parliament (MPs) are the most direct link between the government and you, as a citizen. Because they are elected by constituents within their electorate, they have a vested interest in addressing their concerns. Raising issues with your local MP, therefore, can be an extremely effective way of getting them on the radar of Parliament as a whole. Find out who your local MP is here.

It can also be effective to contact an MP who may not be your local MP, but who has particular interests that resonates with your research. Most MPs have websites where they list their interests; another way you can find out this information is by checking which MPs sit on relevant All-party Parliamentary Groups or Select Committees, or by searching parliamentary proceedings or to see which Members have held debates or asked questions on relevant issues.

There are a number of formal and informal steps an MP can take to raise awareness about your issue among fellow MPs and ministers, and the Parliament website lists them all. Below are some of the most effective:

Write to a government minister

It is difficult for a member of the public or organisations to directly contact a government minister, due to the volume of correspondence they receive. An MP, however, can write to a minister to make them aware of an issue, and the minister is obligated to respond. 

Ask a question in the House or submit a written question

An MP can ask Ministers questions during Question Time, which happens in the first hour of business each day that the House sits. The Question Time session ends at a fixed time, so only the first few tend to get an airing. However, it’s an effective awareness-raising strategy because the question is listed in the Order Paper for the day. An MP can also ask and submit a written question at any time, and they require a written response from the Minister.

Apply for a debate

MPs can lobby the Backbench Business Committee for a debate on a given issue during Backbench time. They are more likely to secure a debate during Backbench time if they have cross-party support on the subject. MPs can also apply to raise matters during the half-hour Adjournment debate at the end of the day’s business.

Request an early day motion

Early day motions are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons. Very few are actually debated, but they allow MPs to draw attention to an event or cause. MPs register their support by signing individual motions.

Private Members Bills

Private Members’ Bills (as opposed to Public Bills) are put forward by individual MPs or Lords, rather than government ministers. They rarely successfully become law, and the Member who introduces a Bill often may not be given time for a debate, but they are another useful way to raise political and public awareness about an issue. A recent example of a Private Member’s Bill that generated significant media attention was the Assisted Dying Bill, which was voted down in the House of Commons on 11 September 2015.

Members of the House of Lords

Members are not elected, and do not directly represent citizens in the same way as an MP. However, because members devote much of their parliamentary time to considering specific policy issues in detail, it can be very useful to contact a member who works on a relevant area.

Like an MP, members can draw on a number of mechanisms to raise awareness of an issue in the House. These include oral and written questions, and private members bills.

You can find a guide to contacting a member here, and search for members by policy interest here.

Lobbying an MP or Member of the House of Lords

When you contact a member to discuss an issue that matters to you, you are lobbying. The term is sometimes understood to mean large corporate interests attempting to influence politicians, but in fact ‘lobbying’ simply means any individual or organisation attempting to influence, educate, or explain a point of view to a parliamentarian. Lobbying is an essential part of any healthy democracy: it’s a vital way for politicians to find out about the issues concerning the citizens they represent.

You can either write or email your chosen member, or you can visit MPs at their weekly surgery in their electorate office. MPs hold their surgeries on Fridays, as the start of the week is taken up with Parliamentary business.

Below is a brief guide to communicating with a member (for more general advice about communicating for a policy audience, see <guide>.

How to lobby an MP or Member of the House of Lords

  • Seek out members who are personally invested in your issue, and get them involved. All MPs care about issues specific to their constituency, but they will also have additional special interests. Members of the House of Lords have significant personal expertise in their professional fields, and a range of interests. Finding the one or two members who will care enough to devote time to your cause is far more effective than approaching a large number.
  • Get cross-party support if possible. Issues supported by members from both sides of the Houses, or at least more than one party, are far easier to progress and will attract other supporters.
  • Have a clear objective in mind when you make your approach. Members need to know what your desired outcome is, not just what the issue itself is.
  • Don’t assume members have knowledge of the issue: communicate as you would for any intelligent layperson.
  • A member will not have time to read more than one or two pages. Background information can be attached as an appendix, but the issue and your proposed solution or objective need to be communicated in two pages or less.
  • Template emails and letters get template responses. Always send individual communications, even if you are contacting more than one person (and as discussed above, it’s less effective to approach members indiscriminately).