How can my MP help me?
My role as an MP is to represent all the people in my constituency; not just those who voted for me. I am your MP and I am here to help you with all matters for which Parliament or central government is responsible. On any other matters I will always do my best to help or point you in the right direction to get the help you need.
Many people think that as an MP I am able to solve all their problems: unfortunately, this is not the case. MPs are there to help directly with those matters for which Parliament or central government is responsible. Problems can arise with work carried out by central government departments and I 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 Work and Pensions such as benefits, pensions, national insurance,
employment issues and Child Support Agency matters,
• Problems dealt with by the Home Office such as immigration and nationality issues,
• Difficulties with utilities (e.g. gas, electricity, telephone companies etc)
I am not able to help directly in private disputes with other individuals or, for example, interfere with decisions made by courts.
As your Westminster MP I am responsible for Taxation, Benefits, Pensions, Employment, major aspects of the Economy, International Development, Foreign Policy, Defence, Immigration, Energy, Equal Opportunities, Broadcasting, Lottery Funding - indeed everything that remains the responsibility of the UK Parliament. The Scottish Parliament deals with devolved matters like Health, Housing and Local Government. There is a strong convention that MPs do not interfere in other MPs constituencies and this extends to MSPs also. However, we all try to co-operate to ensure that people get the help they need from the appropriate person. For example, I work closely with my South of Scotland MSP colleagues, Clauidia Beamish and Graeme Pearson and your local Labour Councillors on South and East Ayrshire Councils.
Constituents often bring a problem to me because they do not know who else to turn to and I try my best to help them. However, if your problem really concerns the local council, rather than central government, then you should first contact your local council or councillor. You can find out how to do that that by going to my Links page and clicking on South or East Ayrshire Council
How do I deal with problems?
Where your problem does involve central government, I have a number of ways open to me to try to resolve the matter. A letter or phone call from me to the relevant department or official will often provide a solution. If not, I may decide to take matters a stage further by writing to the Government Minister involved, or even making 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 more 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 by a central government department, I may be able to take your case to the Ombudsman (Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration). I am sometimes able to resolve such cases where there has been administrative incompetence. The Ombudsman can only be approached via an MP – you cannot approach him directly.
Can I raise matters in the House of Commons?
All of the methods discussed so far allow problems to be kept confidential. If I am not satisfied with the answers received I 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. Obviously, before I did so I would discuss this course of action with the constituent involved and would only raise an issue in Parliament with their permission.
There are a number of ways I can do this. I can ask a question of the Minister 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 and, of course, I may not be called by the Speaker.
I may also try to raise your problem in the short Adjournment Debates, which are usually the last business of the day in the House and are also held in the mornings in Westminster Hall. There will be competition amongst MPs for the right to raise matters on adjournment and I must be successful in a ballot or have my subject chosen by the Speaker. I have been able to hold several adjournment debates on local issues over the past few years.
At other times, I may prefer to draw attention to the matter by what is called an Early Day Motion. Although EDMs are not usually debated, I will have placed on record my opinion on a subject and will be able to gauge the support of my fellow MPs. 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 an MP and must be arranged in a particular format. You can obtain advice on this by contacting me or by writing to the Clerk of Public Petitions, Journal Office, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.
What about campaigns and lobbying?
MPs are often contacted by constituents campaigning on behalf of a particular cause, perhaps representing an organised pressure group. I will have to decide whether to take any action. I have been involved with many local campaigning groups during my time as MP. I do try to do everything I reasonably can to help my constituents, but I am not able to support every cause, nor will I be able to get the desired solution to every individual problem.
My pledge to you is to give all your concerns my careful attention and where I decide that I can take some action on your behalf, to do so to the very best of my ability.