Role of an MP

Shows the roles and responsibilities of a Member of Parliament

The role of a Member of Parliament (MP) is to represent his/her constituents, including those who did not vote for them or did not vote at all. At the same time, many backbench MPs will feel that they have a responsibility to their political party as the party helped the MP secure election.

MPs represent their constituents in areas where the UK Parliament takes decisions eg immigration or defence. MPs either debate or ask questions in the House of Commons or they work in smaller groups known as committees.

Other important roles of MPs in Parliament are to help make laws and to scrutinise (check-up on) the work of the government or investigate issues.

Parliamentary duties of an MP

  • writing to or organising meetings with relevant ministers
  • speaking in Parliament during a debate
  • asking questions during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs)
  • introducing Members Bills on topics of concern to their constituents
  • lobbying other organisations (such as local councils, health boards) and individuals on behalf of their constituents
  • raising the profile of an issue in the media
  • involvement in committees which scrutinise new legislation or question the work of the government

Private Members Bills

Although there is not much time available, an MP may try to introduce a Private Members Bill. These are Public Bills introduced by MPs and Lords who are not government ministers.

As with other Public Bills their purpose is to change the law as it applies to the general population. A minority of Private Members' Bills become law but, by creating publicity around an issue, they may affect legislation indirectly.

An example of a successful Private Members Bill is the Homelessness Reduction Act (2017) which was introduced by Conservative MP for Harrow East, Bob Blackman.

This Act, drafted in consultation with an expert panel including homelessness charity Crisis, built on the landmark 1977 Housing (Homeless Persons) Act by making local housing authorities responsible for the needs of all people who are homeless or at serious risk of homelessness regardless of whether they are involuntary or ‘intentionally homeless’.

Whips

MPs from the government party who ensure their colleagues support the government and vote for their policies are called 'whips'. Sometimes the views of the party may come into conflict with the views of constituents.

Constituency duties of an MP

When they are not working in parliament, MPs work in their constituencies, communicating with their constituents by writing letters, emails and replying to phone messages. Often MPs will hold 'surgeries' where local people can meet with their MP and ask questions. Constituents usually meet with their MP to seek help with a problem or issue. Some MPs send out newsletters to their constituents and communicate via their own website or social media accounts.

MPs are asked to attend a large number of meetings and events, including with their local constituency political party. They require the support of the local party to ensure that they will be selected to stand as a candidate in future elections. The election of MPs who are not linked to any political party is rare. At the moment, there are no independent MPs.

Scottish MPs at Westminster

There are 59 MPs who represent Scottish voters in the UK Parliament at Westminster. Scottish MPs mainly represent voters in those areas which are not devolved to the Scottish Parliament such as immigration, defence and employment rights. Scottish MPs have the right to speak and vote on any matter that comes up in the UK Parliament even if it does not directly affect Scotland.