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Influencing central government

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Influencing central government can be a great way to achieve change. This is particularly true if you have limited resources for your campaign, do not need a major public campaign and you have good relationships with key ministers or civil servants.

Government is not inflexible. Departments sometimes welcome pressure from lobbying groups and can even rely on them to propose solutions that may be difficult for them to introduce themselves.

Parliamentary bills can take a long time to come to fruition so it is crucial to be involved from the beginning. This means talking to officials and ministers to influence the content of any proposals, even before green papers and white papers are published and formal consultations begin.

MPs and select committees

You may need to work with MPs as part of your campaign. MPs are a key access point to parliament and they often say the single most powerful pressure on them is their constituents.

Select committees scrutinise the work of government departments by shadowing and interrogating ministers, their officials and the delivery of the department’s work. They also examine key issues and topics that are relevant to their department remit. They can call witnesses and their reports are influential.

A committee’s request for evidence is a big chance for you to push your case. Appearing before the committee in person can help you to position yourself as a credible expert on an issue.

All-party groups

All-party groups are less formal than select committees. Their membership mainly comprises backbenchers from both houses, but can include ministers, shadow ministers and non-parliamentarians.

Groups are classified either as subject groups (for example forestry) or country groups (relating to a particular country or region). The group chairs are influential and ministers respond when asked to meet them.

Parliamentary questions

Prime minister’s questions (PMQs) receives a significant level of coverage and is seen as an important program by both westminster and the media.

PMQs is an effective way of bringing issues into the spotlight, which can often lead to those issues being prioritised inside government. Parliamentary questions, either spoken or written, enable MPs to hold the government to account. Parliamentary questions cost you nothing and you can ask any sympathetic MP to present them for you. They can help you find out information but also draw ministers’ and officials’ attention to an issue.

Private members' bills

Private members’ bills can be a chance for backbench MPs to introduce their own bills; this is done through a yearly device known as the private members’ bills ballot. Proposing a private members’ bill can be a very useful way of influencing policy, even if you cannot get your issue through the entire process.

To have any likelihood of becoming legislation, a bill should:

  • be short and centered around a very specific issue
  • not radically challenge government policy
  • be on an issue that is likely to gain cross-party support.

Special advisers

Most cabinet ministers will have two or three special advisers. They can be an essential link between the minister and officials, and can also provide information about the minister’s thinking and expectations. Often it is the special advisers who will make contact with public stakeholders, reporting back to the minister. They are therefore a crucial target for campaigners who want to draw issues to the minister's attention.

Further information

Page last edited May 15, 2017

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