Lucid letters will help MPs fathom bureaucratic flannel

Gill Cardy

Only the constituents of Members of Parliament may deal with their own MPs, so block letter writing is not an option.

There are 650 MPs and IFA Centre members live in the constituencies of around 130 of them. It is not hard to believe that every MP must have at least one IFA in their constituency.

But each MP has, on average, 70,000 constituents and every constituent has his own interests and concerns – from third runways to badger culling.

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So, once you consider the fact that only a constituent can write to his MP and expect a response, and that the subjects MPs have to address are vast and complex, you get a perfect storm.

MPs who are not familiar with the subject are asked to get involved in a matter by someone much better informed on the subject, whatever the subject. So it is no wonder, for example, that when IFA Centre members and their clients write to their MPs with their concerns, those MPs feel out of their depths and ill-equipped to respond to the complex and detailed matters raised.

The MP therefore concludes that the only way their constituent will get a sensible answer is to forward the query to those most likely to answer the question intelligently, usually the Treasury or the regulator.

What is increasingly apparent is that such enquiries generate standard replies. I know. I have seen them. But, because they are not as familiar with our subject as we are, MPs typically will not have the knowledge to identify template letters or the resources with which to rebut the typically vague and disingenuous answers that are trotted out of the Whitehall and regulatory machinery.

Which is why each and every IFA should take time to explain their issues to their MP, set out their concerns clearly, concisely and politely, and help their elected representatives to identify flannel, obfuscation and half-truths. They are our lawmakers and we should be prepared to help them to hold to account those responsible for implementing the laws they enact.

Gill Cardy is managing director of the IFA Centre