Thank you to everyone who came to our Parliamentary Lobbying Workshop at Depot Cinema, Kitchen & Bar last night – led by the marvellous Kerri Carpenter of the Education and Engagement Team at the Houses of Parliament. It was lively, informative and Kerri was impressively professional and neutral every time we asked “But what are the current government playing at?”

So what did we learn? Here are 10 things that could be useful for campaigning groups like Plastic Free Lewes:

  1. That www.parliament.uk is a surprisingly useful resource for seeing timetables of upcoming debates, identifying the policy interests of different MPs and peers, and for identifying All Party Parliamentary Groups and Public Bill Committees that already are scrutinising issues related to your community group or campaign.
  2. That as well as speaking to your MP, it can be well worth contacting Peers in the House of Lords to address an issue. Peers have much more freedom from party politics than MPs, can work with anyone they choose, and now comprise a younger, more diverse group of experts. You can ask a Peer to table a question on a topic for ‘short debate’. Use www.parliament.uk to identify those already clearly interested in the issues you are campaigning about.
  3. If a bill on an issue relevant to your campaign is being debated in Parliament, you can ask your MP or a Peer to speak in the debates that take place. Bills are debated several times in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords – so it’s good to get someone to get your points across in BOTH houses.
  4. That it helps if you can get a critical mass of MPs asking the same or similar question in debates – a good reason to get campaigners across a range of constituencies working on an issue in a co-ordinated way.
  5. Asking your MP or a Peer to write to a government minister on an issue can be effective as the government is required to answer ALL parliamentary written questions. That’s another good reason to coordinate with campaigners in other constituencies to ask their MP to write to the SAME minister with the SAME question – so the pressure on the minister to answer the issue really ramps up.
  6. That anyone can submit evidence to a Public Bill Committee (the body to which any bill is referred for detailed discussion after its second reading). So as a campaigning group you could submit writtten evidence – and maybe then be invited to given oral evidence.
  7. That there are over 500 All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) covering a range of topics. Go to www.parliament.uk to see which APPGs could be useful to contact in relation to your campaign.
  8. That anyone can submit evidence to a parliamentary select committee (and committees tend to be keen to hear a wide range of views) – so watch out on the Parliamentary website for select committees set up to explore an issue that relates to your campaign. At the end of its inquiry, a committee will write up a report that the government MUST respond to – and this will include recommendations they want the government to take up.
  9. That a public e-petition posted at https://petition.parliament.uk will be considered for debate in Parliament once it gets 100,000 signatures. But petitions posted on sites like change.org have no sway over government whatsoever (except in the court of public opinion maybe).
  10. That anyone can hold a protest in the Central Lobby at Westminster – just don’t bring placards – or the obvious stuff….like guns.

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