This note discusses the conventions that have developed as a result of the relationship between individual Members and their constituencies. It covers the issues of constituency casework, raising matters relating to another Member’s constituency in the House, and visits and speaking engagements in other constituencies. The Note deals also with the related matter of local precedence.

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In the British parliamentary system one Member represents a single constituency, and conventions have developed so that one Member’s relations with his or her constituents are very much a preserve other Members should not interfere with.

The conventions dealing with these matters are not the subject of formal parliamentary rules.

Constituency casework

The general principle in relation to constituency casework was set out by Edmund Marshall, a former MP, in his 1982 book Parliament and the Public: “any citizen in the United Kingdom should first get in touch with his own constituency representative”. He continued:

  1. There is a convention, almost universally observed on all sides of the House of Commons, that Members deal with personal inquiries only from their own constituents.

There are nuances and some potential areas of overlap but Speaker Martin considered that “It is best to leave it to the good sense of Members to work out any problems between them”.

Some issues might be more appropriately dealt with by local councillors or members of devolved legislatures, but a constituent can write to whichever representative he or she chooses.

Guidance for ministers on raising constituency matters can be found in the Ministerial Code.

Visiting other constituencies

By convention Members intending to visit another constituency, other than on a purely private or personal matter, should inform the relevant Member. Guidance has been given from the Chair and has been set out in Rules of behaviour and courtesies in the House of Commons, issued by the Speaker and Deputy Speakers:

  • Courtesy to other Members
  1. 43. You should notify colleagues whenever:
      • you intend to refer to them in the Chamber (other than making passing reference to what they have said on the public record)
      • you table Questions which specifically affect colleagues’ constituencies
      • you intend to visit a colleague’s constituency (except on purely private visits).
  • All reasonable efforts should be taken to notify the other Member, and failing to do so is regarded by colleagues as very discourteous.
  • Guidance for ministers on official visits can be found in the Ministerial Code.

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