Questions and answers

How do I send a message?

To send your free message, just go to the home page of the site, type in your postcode and press the "Go" button. Up will pop details of all your elected representatives. Select the one you want, and you will be taken straight to a simple form in which you can start writing your message straight away. Don't forget to fill in your name, address and email — we can't send your message without these.

When you have finished writing your message, press the "Preview your message" button at the bottom of this page. Take a look to see if you have expressed yourself as well as you want to. If not, you can click on "edit this Message" to go back to the original form, and change your letter. Otherwise, click on the "Continue" button to start the process of sending your letter.

Before WriteToThem sends your message to your chosen representative, there has to be a simple fourth step. We send you an email, as a way of confirming that you are a real person. The message contains a link (a website address) which you must visit before we can send your message. If the email cannot be sent for whatever reason, your message will not be sent. If the email goes unanswered, your message will not be sent. For these reasons, make sure you type in your email address correctly on the form. The email we send you also contains a copy of your own letter for your future reference.

There is no need to write anything in response to the mail we send — just click on the link, or copy and paste it in to your browser window and that's it. Message sent.

If you would like a reply to your letter, don't forget to ask for one when composing your message. It's up to the representative in question to get in touch with you.

Two weeks after your message has been sent, we will email you again asking if your representative has been in touch. WriteToThem cannot be held responsible for any representative's failure get in touch, but we think it worthwhile to track their responsiveness. You can see the statistics we make from this.

WriteToThem would like to say again that while we are offering this site as a service to the public, we can't guarantee to anyone that your representative will read the message you send, and we can't follow up any enquiries you make regarding any replies from your representative.

If you are not a broadband user, or if you pay for your internet connection per minute, you can go offline to save yourself a bit of cash whilst you compose your letter. Write the letter you wish to send in the word processing program you use every day, then when you are happy with it, dial in to your ISP again and just copy and paste your letter into the message form. The form will also ask you for your full name, address and email address. These personal details are to verify who you are, and to allow your representative to reply to you.

Why do you want my address, name, email address and phone?
  • Firstly to enable your chosen elected representative to get in touch with you, and to help the message that is sent look more like a formal letter. Note that entering your phone number is optional, but advisable. Sometimes representatives would rather call you than write back to you.
  • Secondly, to enable us to send you a copy of your message for your records, and to tell you if there was a delivery problem.
  • Thirdly, to enable you to confirm who you are, and that you live in a particular area. WriteToThem is concerned that this service is used in a responsible way by everyone. Which is why we built it responsibly.
Why can't I write to any representative I like?

Elected representatives have a duty to listen and respond to those who live in their areas of responsibility — but they can't possibly cope with regular communication from the entire UK population. We try to strike a balance between getting people listened to, and filling their inboxes with problems which it is not their job to solve.

We don't let anyone write to any representative — our service is only to enable people to write to their own elected representatives (or any lord). If we did let anyone write to any representative in the country, professional lobbyists would use us to mail every one of the representatives, in the same way as marketeers junk-mail as many people as they can. Eventually, representatives would ignore every message sent through our service, instead of trusting it as a source of genuine letters from genuine constituents. And the main losers in this would be real constituents with real problems.

Why can't I write to a Minister through the site?

Super powered though we are, we can't do everything. A few people have talked about making a "Write to a Minister" website, but it hasn't happened yet. Contact us if you would like to fund such a site. For now, WriteToThem concentrates on being a way for you to contact your elected representatives. If your MP happens to also be a Minister, you can still of course contact them using WriteToThem. Please do not try to write to a Minister who is not your MP using WriteToThem, as your message may go to their constituency office as an MP, which would not be the right place to handle it.

Anyway, Ministers are often best contacted via your MP. To do this, ask your MP to pass on your concern to the relevant Minister. They will do this even if they disagree with you, although you should ask them to add their own support if they do agree with you. Your MP will return the response that they get from the Minister. If necessary, your MP can also chase the Minister, on your behalf, through Questions in Parliament.

If you would like to contact a Minister directly, you may find a list of their contact details on this list of departments and ministers on the Parliament web site.

Why shouldn’t I copy and paste “form” letters?

It's much more powerful to write in your own words, telling your representative about your own beliefs and experiences. We want to make the voice of the individual more powerful, so we block "identikit" letters.

It would be easy to help people send lots of identical messages with one click. But then MPs would be drowned out by automated emailings organised by large campaigns groups and corporations. We prefer that representatives can trust messages from WriteToThem as being from real individuals, giving their own story.

If you're a pressure group, think about what you're doing. Ask your supporters to write to their own representative in their own words. Your message will be much more powerful. Even though your supporters may send fewer messages, their impact will be ahead of the game.

Still not convinced? Here's a quote from a Parliamentary researcher, whose job is to make the MP he/she works for as accessible as possible (such people are the hidden gems of our democracy):

MPs rather naturally take a sudden influx of identical or similar messages with a large pinch of salt, since they know that what they are seeing is stuff from a minority of constituents who are either impassioned/neurotic about the topic concerned or who are easily gulled into agreeing with some plausible story and sending the message, since it takes minimum effort to do so.

Given a daily mailbag of (say) 50 individual messages from individual constituents, on a wide range of topics, when the mailbag suddenly rises to 100 a day, 50 of which are much the same as each other, the representative has no way at all of knowing whether the message concerned is representative of opinion in the constituency.

All he or she knows is that 50 constituents have been persuaded to mail them about 'topic X'. Much more notice is taken of trends within the regular flow of messages from clearly identified constituents. If in a month 50 people write in different ways and through different routes with similar views on a subject, this is much more likely to raise the profile of the topic with the MP.

So please don't copy and paste the same message as everyone else. And don't encourage others to do so. It's worse than useless as we'll automatically stop your messages before they get through. Ask people to write in their own words. If they care enough about your issue, they'll do so.

What will you do with the personal information used by this site?

Please see our separate Privacy and Cookies page.

Who are you and why are you doing this?

Please see our About Us page.

What should I do if my MP (or other representative) doesn't reply?

There are lots of things you can do to follow up your enquiry if you get no reply, or an unsatisfactory reply, from your representative.

  • See your MP or other representative in person, raise your issue with them at their local "surgery". Call your MP's local constituency office or your representative's party office to arrange this. You can find the number in your local phone book, or on your MP's website.
  • Make sure you have taken all other courses of action to raise your issue, or to get your problem solved. For example, contact the relevant central Government department, and relevant officers at your local councils. Ask your local Citizens Advice Bureau for advice.
  • Write a letter to your local newspaper about your issue, and your dissatisfaction with your MP, MEP or councillor.
  • Write a letter to your other representatives, such as your MP, your local councillors, MEPs or regional representatives, if appropriate. You can do this for free using WriteToThem.
  • Complain about your representative to their local party. Contact the local party office. The local party has the power not to select your MP as a candidate for the next General Election.
  • Use PledgeBank (made by the same charity that makes WriteToThem) to gather a group of people with the same issue as you, and solve the problem together.
There's a statement about signatures at the bottom of my message. What's that about?

Way back in the early days of FaxYourMP.com, a small group of MPs started replying to constituents who used the service, saying that they could not possibly respond to unsigned messages. Because FaxYourMP messages weren't signed, the MPs couldn't be sure that they were genuine. The constituents were asked to resubmit their request on paper.

This was a bit confusing to the FaxYourMP team. In practical terms, a written signature proves nothing: in order to check the veracity of the letter or signature, you'd have to check it with the original author to get a confirmatory sample of their signature — and if you were doing that, why didn't you just ask them about the letter? It made no sense.

Then they thought: aha, perhaps this is some legal requirement. A lot of MPs are lawyers, and are probably very good about this kind of thing. Perhaps even better than they are at simply answering constituents' requests.

Happily, if it's legality they're worried about, there is a fix. The Electronic Communications Act 2000, Subsection 7(3) states:

7(3) For the purposes of this section an electronic signature incorporated into or associated with a particular electronic communication or particular electronic data is certified by any person if that person (whether before or after the making of the communication) has made a statement confirming that--

(a) the signature,

(b) a means of producing, communicating or verifying the signature, or

(c) a procedure applied to the signature,

is (either alone or in combination with other factors) a valid means of establishing the authenticity of the communication or data, the integrity of the communication or data, or both.

The message at the bottom of your message is your statement to that effect. For the purpose of sending a letter to your representative, your electronic signature is legally valid. You may point this out to your representative should they tell you that they can't reply to your message, because they don't know who you are.

And what does the strange '0c0c38720cde084343' bit signify?

It's a SHA1 hash of your e-mail address. Very impressive to overly legalistic MPs. Highly technical.

Can I check the message before I send it?

Yes. There is every chance to take a second look and make sure you said what you wanted to say. Just click on "Preview" before you send the message, and you can see the whole thing nicely formatted.

Check through it, and if you see anything you don't like, just click on "<<edit this Message".

It will take you straight back to the form, where you will be able to delete or add anything you want. There is no limit to the amount of times you can preview and edit.

How are messages sent to all the councillors, MPs etc.?

Most messages are sent directly to representatives' official email addresses. However, many more are faxed. Furthermore, we may fax messages to representatives who do not appear to be actively checking their email. Many representatives have paper-based filing systems, and find it much easier to deal with faxed messages than emails.

For messages to local councillors we will usually send your message to the democratic or members' services offices of that council, who will then forward it on to the right person. We would appreciate any help from volunteers with the huge task of entering many more of the direct email and fax details for councillors, normally found on council websites.

Can you guarantee my message will be sent?

Sadly, no. We have more than 24,000 representives in our database, and whilst GovEval help us keep them up to date, there will be some that fall through the gap. We will do everything we can to spot and eliminate problems though, so please let us know if you have spotted any gaps. We will, however, do everything we can to tell you if your message didn't get through.

Can't you just give me the direct email address of my MP?

There are several reasons we don't use direct email address links.

  • We don't have direct email addresses for all MPs or representatives, we often send messages by fax.
  • Quite a few people use computers in public places where the computer is not set up for their email, so direct email links would not work. They need a web form to write their message.
  • We prevent spam, or other abusive mass emailed messages, from being sent to representatives.
  • We monitor as best we can whether the emails/faxes get there, so we can fix bad contact details, rather than leaving them not working.
  • We send a questionnaire to hold representatives to account if they never reply.

You can sometimes find direct email address for your MP on the Guardian's Ask Aristotle site, or on the Parliament website.

How do I cancel my message?

If you would like to cancel your message and not send it, please just do not click on the link in the confirmation email that will be sent to you. Once you have confirmed your message by clicking that link, it will probably have been sent pretty much instantly. Our best advice is to carefully read your message before confirming it.

I have an idea for a service similar to WriteToThem. How would I set it up? Can I use your software?

Our software is all available on our public CVS and you can use it under the terms of the GNU Affero GPL "Open Source" licence. There's a link in the copyright messages at the bottom of every page. Sadly, we have to keep licensed data (such as the links between postcodes and wards/constituencies, and the names of representatives) out of the public domain, but there is a huge amount of useful work available here, especially for people who want to build versions of WriteToThem in other countries.

Feel free to ask our developers about how the service works! Their email addresses are in every source file. They'll do their best to answer your questions, within reason.

Can I help you run the site?

Sure! See our volunteering page.

What do I do if I think something went wrong, or if I see an error on the site?

Then we want to hear from you. Whilst we offer this service for free, we still want it to work. Don't hesitate to contact us to let us know if anything strange happens (while you use the site, not in life generally), or you see any error messages.