You know how to lobby on something going through the House of Commons, right? You write to your MP. But how do you do that for the House of Lords? After all, you have a named MP who represents you and your local area in the Commons, but peers don’t have constituencies – and there are over 800 of them!
And lobbying the Lords matters because MPs (well, 494 of them) have just given the green light to the “European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill”. That’s the law that gives the Prime Minister the power to trigger Article 50, kick-starting Britain’s exit from the EU. Having passed the Commons, the bill must now pass through the Lords.
So, how do you lobby the Lords?
Well, we have two ideas about how you can do it. But first, let us emphasise how important it is to lobby members of the House of Lords. No party has a majority there. The largest party – the Conservatives – has fewer than one in three of the seats. Around one in four seats (200 or so) are held by Crossbench or non-affiliated peers, meaning they don’t belong to any party group. In essence, the bill can’t easily be whipped through unamended like it was in the Commons.
The first way to lobby a peer is by using the excellent WriteToThem.com website. This is the site where you just need to input your postcode and you can easily email your MP and all the other people you help elect.
But there is also part of the site that facilitates writing to members of the House of Lords. Here’s the link: https://www.writetothem.com/lords. We suggest scrolling down and clicking on the button, “Get a Random Lord”. That takes you to a page where you can write your message to a randomly-selected peer.
And what’s good about the Lords is that whilst you can only write to your sole local MP, if you are especially enthusiastic you can send messages to several randomly-selected peers. Just keep clicking on the button, although it does limit you to sending messages to up to six peers per day.
Oh, and by the way, why not consider donating to mySociety, the people behind WriteToThem.com? The option to donate is on each page of the site. They provide a great service, free to use.
The other idea we have is to use the list of peers who have already put down their names to speak. The Government Whips’ Office in the House of Lords maintains a list of peers who want to speak in any debate. If you go to http://www.lordswhips.org.uk/speakers-lists/20022017 and scroll down to the debate on Monday 20 February you should see the list (currently standing at 166 peers) of those who want to speak in the debate on the Brexit bill. Why not send a message to some of them? You can find the contact details of individual peers at http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/lords/
Some peers do not provide their direct email address on that system, preferably to use firstname.lastname@example.org. You can use that to email those peers, but only to a maximum of six per day. Emailing a peer who has shared their personal email address is probably a better bet as it shows they are open to receiving messages from the public.
One other thing though – if everyone starts with the names at the top of that list of 166 peers then the ones further down the list won’t hear from anyone. Pick someone at random from the list and contact them.
We are not going to give a model or template letter or email text because politicians can see them a mile off and they have much less impact than something that comes personally from the individual writing to them.
Our advice would first & foremost to be polite and not to write something too long; they will be getting a lot of correspondence on this, and simplicity and brevity are your friend. If you want them to vote down the bill, tell them. If you want them to vote in favour of amendments that will keep us in the Single Market, that will maintain free movement, that will protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK or UK nationals living in the EU post-Brexit, or amendments that commit the Government to honour the £350m per week extra for the NHS pledge made by the Leave campaign during the referendum campaign, tell them.
If you have any personal experience that’s relevant to your point – maybe you are an EU national worried about your right to stay in Britain, or a young person studying a foreign language at university who fears that their right to live and work in the EU country of your choice is going to be snatched away – put it in there. Highlighting the real world consequences on people’s lives of what’s happening will always have an impact.
We have been pushing for UK nationals to be given the freedom to opt in to some kind of citizenship or associate citizenship of the European Union, should Brexit go ahead. If you support that, and want the Government to be open to it, tell them about it and ask for their support. Ask them to raise it as an issue on the floor of the House of Lords, to ask ministers about it.
If you think about it, it’s easy to write your own unique letter to a peer. It’s not quite as easy as copying & pasting what someone else has written, but – believe me – it is worth the effort.
Feel free to share your messages in the comments section if you would like, and indeed the replies you get. Let’s see if we can have more luck with the Lords than we did with the Commons.