What is lobbying?
Lobbying is using your right to meet your MP as one of his or her constituents. You can do this either in your constituency (see list of surgery details on this site) or by visiting Parliament.
An MP should regard you as a constituent whether you voted for them or not. MP's are meant to 'represent' a constituent's interests. This does not mean that they have to agree with you - after all each MP has up to 90,000 constituents - but it does mean they should listen and be prepared to pass on your views to the government.
You should therefore use a meeting with your MP to try to:
o influence their views,
o persuade them that many other constituents share your concerns,
o ask them to pass on your concerns to the government, and
o to ask them to take appropriate action (and we suggest some below) to show that they support you.
Meeting your MP
In theory you can turn up at Westminster any time that the House of Commons is sitting and request a meeting with your MP. But there is no guarantee that they will be there or have time to meet you, and in these days of heightened security, there is a strict limit on numbers within Parliament. Particularly when you are joining a mass lobby such as this, you should do everything you can to arrange to meet in advance.
Arrangements in advance
The best way to contact your MP is to write to him or her at the House of Commons, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA. Most MPs also use email, and should treat emails in the same manner as a letter. You can find out your MPs' email address at the following website: http://www.parliament.uk/directories/hciolists/alms.cfm.
There is a model letter you can use to tell your MP that you will be coming to London and ask to meet them that you can find on the TUC website www.tuc.org.uk/speakup . It is also worth giving your MP your mobile number, if you have one. This may help them track you down on the day.
Because of the pressure on the Central Lobby - the area in the House of Commons where visitors traditionally wait for MPs - there is a limit of 100 lobbyists. We have therefore suggested other possible meeting places:
o MPs can come to Methodist Central Hall (which will be the lobby HQ for the day). We will have an area set aside for MPs to meet with constituents.
o There are a number of other parliamentary buildings. If your MP has an office in one of these, they may suggest you go there instead.
o We will ask some friendly MPs to book a large Committee Room in the Commons where they can take lobbyists to free up space in Central Lobby.
If you need to go to Central Lobby, you will enter through what is known as the St Stephens entrance to the Commons. Stewards will be available to help you. Before you queue for the security check, inform a police officer that you have a meeting arranged with your MP and show them any correspondence to this effect if your MP has sent it to you. This should allow you to go straight into the security checking area without queuing with the general public for tours of Parliament. Your MP or their staff will usually come to meet you in Central Lobby. You need to go to the desk in Central Lobby and ask the attendants to telephone your MP\'s office.
Remember you will have to go through \'airport type\' security to gain access to Parliament - on a busy day this can take at least 15 minutes - and you may need to queue until there is space. NB you cannot take large bags into the Palace, and ideally you should take as little as possible in with you as this will speed up the process. We will arrange cloakroom facilities at Methodist Central Hall - which is in Storey\'s Gate SW1, a short walk from Parliament
What if you don't have an arranged meeting?
If your MP has agreed to meet you, but not given you any details of where and when, or if you have not already arranged a meeting with your MP, you will need to queue outside St Stephen's entrance.
The police will only allow 100 people, including lobbyists and other visitors, into Central Lobby at any one time. Pass through the security check and proceed to Central Lobby in due course. Once in Central Lobby, go to the desk and ask for \'a green card\', which is a request for your MP to come and meet you. This should be filled in and returned as directed. It is important that on the card you make a clear statement as to your reason for visiting such as \'to discuss the threat of privatisation to the quality of public services, and in particular its impact on (the service in which you work) in (the relevant constituency)\'.
This is very important because, if you do not manage to meet with your MP, the card will then be sent on to him or her. The MP should then respond directly to you in due course - clearly the more he or she knows about why you were at Westminster the better.
The desk staff will take the card and officials will be asked to look for your MP and let him or her know that you are asking to meet with them. While you should wait around for a while, do not forget that lobbyists with firm commitments to meet their MP will be waiting to get in so you should be prepared to give up waiting after 20 minutes or so.
If you are disabled, telephone the Serjeant-at-Arms\' office at the House of Commons, who will advise you procedures for entering the building (phone 0207 219 1000 and ask the switchboard officer to put you through to the Serjeant\'s office), The Serjeant\'s office do allow some parking where it is required by disabled people, but individuals will need to verify this with the office. It is usual for one of your MPs\' staff to accompany you once you enter the building. You will need to arrange this with your MP in advance. Please notify your union if you have any special ambulatory needs or require any assistance.
Meeting with your MP
It is best to be as brief, clear and courteous as possible. In particular have in mind what you actually wish your MP to do. If they send their researcher instead, treat them in the same way.
You should thank him or her for taking the time to see you, establish how much time they have, have ready two or three points to make (give them a local dimension where possible) and most importantly ask them to follow up the meeting:
* by raising your points with relevant ministers in writing and conversation
* signing Early Day Motion 499 - this is a Commons motion that MPs can sign to express support for the lobby it reads:
'That this House welcomes the TUC organised Speak up for Public Services lobby on 23rd January 2007 whose purpose is to draw attention to concerns surrounding the future of the public sector including resources and the involvement of the private sector and as an opportunity to celebrate the hard work and dedication of public servants throughout the country;
recognises that many public servants feel that the distinctive public service ethos is too often undervalued and unappreciated, particularly in proposals to privatise or introduce market mechanisms into the public sector;
urges hon. Members to support the European Trade Union Congress online petition calling on the Commission to propose European legislation on public services designed to give priority to the general interest embodied in public services, ensure that everyone has access to public services, strengthen public services in order to guarantee citizens\' fundamental rights, guarantee more legal security so as to allow the development of sustainable public service missions and give public services a firm legal basis and thus immunity from ideologically motivated attacks;
and recognises that while many public services can be improved, this should be done in partnership with the public service staff and users and that reforms should be evidence-based.'
Remember, do not be surprised if your MP does not have a great amount of time to spare you. MPs are very busy, so don\'t take it personally, but make the most of the time you have with them.