Who can your MP help?
Please remember that as your MP, I can only act on behalf of my own constituents. There is a strict parliamentary protocol preventing MP's from taking up cases on behalf of constituents of other MP's. I 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
I can also only act on behalf of constituents who contact me directly. This means that if you would like me to act, for instance, on behalf of a family member, that family member will usually need to make contact directly. This is necessary to maintain confidentiality between me and the individual constituents who contact me. All communications are kept confidential within my office unless you request otherwise.
What can your MP do to help you?
I am here to help with matters for which Parliament or central government is responsible. Problems sometimes 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 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.
I cannot help you in private disputes with neighbours; nor, for example, can I interfere with decisions made by courts or provide legal advice.
As your MP I 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, there are a number of methods available to try to resolve the matter:
A letter from an MP to the relevant department or official will often provide a solution;It may be decided to take matters a stage further by writing to the Minister involved;Or to 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, it 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 South Hams District Council http://www.southhams.gov.uk/complaints.htm or Torbay Unitary Authority http://www.torbay.gov.uk/index/getinvolved/feedback/complaints.htm 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 I am not satisfied with the answers received, and feel that there is something to be gained by making the matter public I 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 I may have the chance to do this.
- Written Questions – I 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
- Private Members' Bill – If I become aware that your problem is a common one then I 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.
- Westminster Hall Debates.
- Asking questions on the floor of the House of Commons.
- Speaking in General Debates.
- Joining All Party Groups campaigning on areas of concern to all MPs.
- Meetings with Ministers and other colleagues to press your case.
These methods can all produce results and sometimes the publicity may be helpful in persuading a Minister to change his or her mind.
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.
The Totnes constituency is served by two councils and as there is often confusion you can find out who you represents you at local government level by visiting: http://www.writetothem.com/
You may also wish to contact the Citizens Advice Bureau for general guidance. You can find the details of your nearest CAB in the Totnes constituency at: http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk
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