1.1 MPs are expected to raise issues of
particular concern for the people who
live in their constituencies, whether they
voted for the MP’s party or not.
1.1.1 EG: If a local factory closes, the MP is expected to
raise the matter with a relevant minister, even if
nothing can be done about it.
2 Serving constituents
2.1 Apart from their work at Westminster, MPs make
regular visits to their constituencies, where they can be
approached by the residents for advice and, where
possible, practical help.
3 Voting on legislation
3.1 Every MP is entitled to cast a vote on a bill.
4.1 Backbench MPs can speak in the
most important debate on any bill –
the second reading.
4.2 Backbench MPs can speak in the most important
debate on any bill – the second reading.
4.3 The speaker who presides over debates,
normally gives preference to ex-ministers,
especially on important issues.
4.4 But in most cases an MP will enjoy the
right to be heard if he or she wishes to
4.5 MPs enjoy parliamentary privilege; that
is, they cannot be sued for anything
mentioned during a speech within the
confines of Westminster.
4.6 They can also initiate adjournment debates,
which give them a chance to win publicity for
their views on subjects important to them.
4.7 They can put down early day motions for the same purpose,
giving their views in writing in the hope that enough MPs will
offer supporting signatures to win publicity for the cause.
5 Committee work
5.1 MPs with an enthusiasm for a particular subject can
be chosen to serve on a standing committee, which
deals with legislation in a specific area, or a select
committee, which keeps an eye on the work of a
department, or several departments.
5.2 The prestigious Public Accounts Committee,
which was founded as long ago as 1862,
oversees spending across Whitehall.
6 Private members’ bills
6.1 Although backbench MPs cannot hope to
pass their own ideas into legislation without
government support, if they are successful
in a ballot they can introduce a bill.
6.2 Again, the goal here is usually to win publicity for a
favourite cause (or to impress constituents) because in
most circumstances the bill fails through lack of time.
6.3 But sometimes a private member’s bill will be
given either open or tacit support by the
government and eventually reach the statute book.
6.4 Some important social legislation of the 1960s,
including the Abortion Act, originate in this way.
6.5 It is a convenient way for governments to
allow the passage of controversial legislation
without being blamed by its opponents for
having introduced the bill in the first place.
7 Executive scrutiny
7.1 Conscientious backbenchers of all parties can
dredge useful (and sometimes embarrassing)
information out of the government.
7.2 Apart from the regular Question Times, MPs can
submit questions in writing and the relevant ministers
answer is published in the Hansard – the official
record of parliamentary debates.