MPs can raise matters in the House of Commons on behalf of their constituents. They can do this by asking parliamentary questions, participating in debates or introducing legislation.
MPs can ask Ministers questions during Question Time or send written questions to them. Question Time takes place in the first hour of business each day. The government is required to answer parliamentary written questions. From the 2014-15 session onwards all written questions and answers, in both the Commons and the Lords, can be searched for via the Written Questions and Answers service.
The half-hour adjournment debate offers another opportunity for MPs to raise matters. Usually taken as the last business of the day, MPs must either win a ballot or be chosen by the Speaker to voice their concern.
MPs can also raise matters in debates in Westminster Hall. These are similar to adjournment debates in the Chamber but take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and may last for either half an hour or an hour and a half.
MPs can lobby the Backbench Business Committee to host a debate in backbench time in either the Chamber or Westminster Hall. The House has allocated at least 35 days of debate to the Committee in the current session. Of these, at least 27 days have to be taken in the Chamber, with the remainder to be taken in Westminster Hall.
MPs are more likely to secure a debate in Backbench time if their subject of debate has cross-party support. Some backbench debates are the result of e-petitions.
On the 17 July 2012 the House of Commons agreed that there could be sittings in Westminster Hall on a Monday, during sitting weeks, from 4.30pm for up to 3 hours. These sittings will only occur when the Backbench Business Committee decides that one should be held and may be used only for debates about e-petitions that have been brought by an MP to the Backbench Business Committee, having attracted over 100,000 signatures on the Government’s e-petitions website.
These Monday sittings are in addition to the 35 days currently allowed for backbench business.
Private Members’ Bills
An MP might introduce a Private Members’ Bill in an attempt to pass a new law. Few of these Bills are successful but they may draw public attention to the problem.
Ministers are restricted by a Code of Conduct and cannot raise certain matters in the House. Parliamentary Private Secretaries and opposition spokespeople may also be restrained by internal party rules.