I did an interview yesterday for Radio Lincolnshire on the issue of MPs’ constituency work. The programme was pursuing a comment by MP James Gray that Members should spend less time in their constituencies and more at Westminster scrutinising government. I explained that the constituency workload of MPs had increased decade after decade – for various reasons – and that there was now a problem of the time devoted to constituency work encroaching on the task that MPs fulfil collectively at Westminster in relation to government. MPs are bad at saying ‘no’ to requests from constituents, even if they are matters for which government have no responsibility and despite the fact that Members are not trained as social workers and may not be knowledgeable about the matters raised by constituents. There are various bodies and grievance-chasing agencies that could pursue the matters raised by constituents, but only MPs can carry out the tasks ascribed to the House of Commons.
I did point out that one solution would be to enhance the resources available to MPs in carrying out their constituency casework, but that this solution was not feasible at the moment. Giving extra resources to MPs at the present time of austerity, and following the scandal of MPs’ expenses, is not exactly politically feasible – with the potential for those objecting to increased resources to include the very people that want their MP to do something for them.