How to lobby your MPWhat 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 or by visiting Parliament in person. This guide has been written for those people taking part in the Lobby for Libraries on Tuesday 13th March.
Speak Up For Libraries is calling upon the Government to take action to stop the devastation of the public library service through cuts and closures. We want to see the Secretary of State uphold his duty to superintend the library service by setting out a clear vision, standards and framework to support local authorities to deliver high quality and sustainable library services.
We need as many library users, workers and campaigners as possible to attend the lobby to explain to their MP how they are personally affected by cuts and closures made to library services in their area and how vital it is that MPs support libraries as an essential public service.
An MP should regard you as a constituent, whether you voted for them or not. MPs are required to represent their constituent's interests, even if they may not agree with them. Each MP can have up to 90,000 constituents, so whilst they may not agree with each and every one, they should listen to your concerns and be prepared to pass your views on to the Government.
You should use a meeting with your MP to seek to:
- Give them information about what is happening to library provision in your area
- Influence their views
- Persuade them that many other constituents also share your concerns
- Ask them to pass your views onto the Government
- Ask them to take appropriate action to show that they support you (see suggestions below)
Meeting your MP
In theory you can turn up at Westminster anytime the House of Commons is sitting and request a meeting with your MP. But there is no guarantee that they will be there or will have time to meet you, and due to heightened security there is a strict limit on numbers within Parliament. Even when taking part in an organised lobby, you should make every effort to arrange to meet your MP in advance.
Contacting your MP
Email your MP to arrange to meet them at the lobby
Remember to include your home address in the email, as MPs have strict rules about only dealing with their own constituents.
It is also worth giving your MP a mobile phone number (if you have one) or asking them for theirs, so it is easier to make contact with them on the day.
If you prefer to write to your MP, you can get their contact details from www.theyworkforyou.com and use our
Model letter for MPs - Word
Where to meet your MP
There is a limit of 100 lobbyists in Central Lobby at any one time - this is the area in the House of Commons where people traditionally wait to meet their MPs. We therefore suggest the following alternatives as possible meeting places to prevent this area getting too busy:
- MPs can come to Central Hall Westminster, which will be where the rally will be taking place, between 11.30am and 4.00pm. We will set aside an area for MPs to meet with their constituents. The Hall is on Storey's Gate, London, SW1H 9NH, which is only a few minutes walk from Parliament.
- We have asked for a large committee room in the House of Commons to be booked for the afternoon, so your MP can meet you there instead to free up space in the Central Lobby area.
- There are a number of other parliamentary buildings where your MP may have an office, which they might suggest meeting you in.
If you need to go to Central Lobby, you need to enter through the St Stephens entrance to the House of Commons. Stewards will be available on the day to help you. Before you join the queue for the security check, inform a police officer that you have a meeting with your MP and show them any associated correspondence. This should enable you to go straight to security checking rather than queuing with the general public waiting for tours of the building. Your MP or one of their members of staff will usually come and meet you in Central Lobby - when you arrive ask the attendants desk to telephone your MP's office to let them know you have arrived.
Using the Green Card system
If you have not arranged a meeting with your MP in advance you can still try to meet them on the day using the Green Card system.
You will need to queue for entry at the St Stephen's entrance, go through security checks and proceed to Central Lobby. Once you are there, go to the desk and ask for a Green Card. This is a request for your MP to come and meet with you and should be filled in and returned to the desk as directed. On the card you must clearly set out why you want to meet with your MP, such as 'to discuss cuts to the library service in X local authority and across local government more generally'.
This is very important because if you do not manage to meet with your MP on the day, the card will still be sent to them. Your MP should then respond directly to you, and the more they know in advance about why you were at the House of Commons, the better.
The desk staff will take your card once completed and ask officials to look for your MP to let them know you would like to meet with them. Be prepared to wait for a while, but don't forget that lobbyists who have firm appointments may also be waiting, so you should be prepared to give up after around 30 minutes.
If you are planning to attend the lobby and have a disability, please telephone the Serjeant-at-Arms office at the House of Commons, who will be able to advise on procedures for entering the building (phone 0207219 3000 and ask the switchboard to put you through to the Serjeant's office). Some disabled parking is provided but this needs to be arranged in advance with the office.
It is usual for one of your MPs' members of staff to accompany you once you are inside the building, but you will need to arrange this in advance. Please contact your Speak Up For Libraries representative in advance if you have any access requirements.
Meeting with your MP
When meeting with your MP it is best to be as brief, clear and courteous as possible. If they send a member of their staff, treat them in the same way. Keep in mind the main points you want to make, and what you would like them to do. Try to ensure you:
- Thank them for taking the time to meet with you
- Establish how much time they have
- Make the key points but try to allow most of the time for questions and discussion
- Most importantly, ask them what they are prepared to do to support your views and put them to the Government.
Ask your MP to:
- Put pressure on the Secretary of State to ensure they superintend their legal duty to ensure a 'comprehensive and efficient' service
- Ask the Secretary of State to draw up a clear vision for the future of the library service, including standards and a framework to support local delivery
- Sign the Early Day Motion on libraries and library workers, recognising the social value of libraries and the urgent need to protect services and staff from disproportionate cuts
- Talk to local authorities in their constituency about library services to ensure they are not facing disproportionate reductions as a result of cuts to local government funding
- Pledge support for libraries, listen to the views of library users and staff about the impact of cuts on services, and seek to influence their party's policy on the issue