Saturday, 13 July 2013

What do our MPs do with their time?

When I first visited Westminster, MPS might get a few items of mail a day. Some progressive MPs would hold regular 'surgeries' where constituents could come to meet them to ask for help in solving a particular problem.

I've seen volumes of post sky-rocket - and almost all MPs now do regular surgeries. I was pleased that after my (unsuccessful) runs for Parliament - the sitting MP upped the level of opportunities that his (sadly, not to be mine) constituents had to see him.

...and then there are emails. Free to send, and easier to send than 'snail-mail'. From zero these have become a major part of MPs' workload.

Lobbying groups make a major contribution - and the standard email about a particular campaign are easily recognised. The House of Commons this week issued a Standard Note about a particular email which keeps popping up.

"Members may be contacted by constituents complaining at the perceived contrast between generous government spending on foreign aid and inadequate domestic benefits and services, citing a forwarded chain email.
This viral email, sometimes given the title ‘Something to think about’ alleges that “We’re broke and can’t help our own Pensioners, Veterans, Orphans, Homeless, etc”. It cites figures for international aid to various countries – and also Hamas – while making claims of governmental neglect of various domestic groups.
The House of Commons Library first became aware of the email in early 2013, but it has been circulating on the internet in some form since at least 2010, and appears to have originated in the US.
The figures quoted in the email, which are often without any indication of currency, do not resemble actual UK international aid figures.
This note gives details of the email, some actual UK foreign aid figures, and information on state support available to those groups named in the email."
Interestingly the originators and re-publishers of this email don't seem to realise that dealing with and answering emails consume a lot of public money.