April 2019 Newsletter from John Howell MP for Henley

The activities in Parliament in recent months have been far from the usual and it is clear from many questions raised with me that even the more normal procedures of Parliament can be confusing. There are indeed some peculiarities wrapped up in historic process. With some of the recent voting, especially on indicative votes, I have set out my own guide to try to help. With amendments and counter amendments, unless you follow it closely, it is not always obvious what a vote is actually on and thus there can be misunderstanding over what an individual MP has actually supported or opposed. I have been accused of supporting things I have not supported and vice versa!

Questions over how Parliament works are not new. I am often asked about the role of an MP or to speak to groups on what I do. I thought it might be helpful to explain some of the ways of working. There is too much for one newsletter so I will write a mini-series over the coming months.

There is no job description for an MP and each MP has to work out the best way to pursue the role for themselves. The main task is to consider and propose new laws as well as raising issues relating to the constituency or constituents. This is not always easy with contentious and divisive issues as has been seen of late. It is always important to listen to different views and to weigh up arguments. In the end every MP has to make a judgement on what they say and how they vote on particular issues. Growing use of social media has brought an interesting dimension to politics and to the work of MPs and I will look at this specifically in a later article.

By and large a MPs time is divided between working in Parliament or representing Parliament elsewhere and working in their constituency. When Parliament is sitting MPs are expected to be in Westminster from Monday to Thursday and so time in the constituency is limited. Outside of sitting weeks there is more time for constituency meetings and visits.

During the course of a week in Westminster there are many competing demands on an MPs time. Time is divided between scrutinising legislation, attending debates, committees, briefings and other meetings, and responding to correspondence. These competing demands mean that it is not always possible to attend a particular debate or drop-in session that a constituent may ask their MP to attend although I try to fit in as much as I can each week.

I will write more on other aspects of the work and workings of Parliament in future months. In the meantime, if there is an issue that concerns you please do let me know. You can email me at howelljm@parliament.uk or write to me at the House of Commons (House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA) or my constituency office (PO Box 84, Watlington, OX49 5XD).