Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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1960 Jan 22 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

Article for Signpost ("First Impressions of Parliament")

Document type: speeches
Document kind: Article
Venue: -
Source: Signpost, 22 January 1960
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: MT's article was reprinted in the Finchley Press and is listed by date of publication in the Finchley Press.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 444
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Parliament

First Impressions of Parliament

The first few weeks of being a new Member of Parliament tend to be bewildering both as far as the geography of the buildings is concerned and the very complicated Procedure which governs the Parliamentary business. The outstanding impression left in one's mind is how helpful everyone is. To elucidate doubt you only have to ask, and a new Member will receive the benefit of others' years of experience.

“Those who have visited the galleries of the House of Commons have often noticed that, apart from Question Time and winding-up on important Debates, the debating Chamber is often less than half-full. This is because there are so many other calls upon one's time, either in the building itself or on other political activities going on close by.

“For example, I have between 30 and 50 letters every day from constituents. Each one has to be studied, and answered, and many require action in order to redress some grievance. Mondays and Tuesdays are the heaviest days for correspondence, but towards the end of the week the number of letters has fallen to about 30 a day—still a formidable task. One morning each week I spend my time visiting two or three of the people who have written, to see for myself the matters they are writing about.

Interviews with Ministers

“Some letters eventually lead to an interview with a Minister. This is comparatively rare but there are occasions when one must go right to the top. Such interviews take place either in the Ministry or in the Palace of Westminster itself, where each Minister has a room set aside for his own use.

“Scarcely a day passes when I do not have individual constituents calling to see me, or receive a deputation or am consulted about some matter in which a Member of Parliament may be able to help.

“In addition to this fascinating task of dealing with personal matters, there is always a series of other meetings going on in Parliament. Visitors from the Dominion Governments and Colonial Territories will give talks on conditions and problems of their own countries. Whenever a new Bill is to be presented to Parliament, those who have a professional interest in it will come and talk to a meeting of Members about its practical effect, and discuss its merits and demerits.

Tempting Engagements

“Further, for those of us who have Constituencies near London there is a tempting series of mid-week engagements and sometimes it is difficult to judge whether it is in the best interests of one's constituents to attend a debate in the House of Commons, or to be present at some event in the Constituency.

“For myself, I find the work full of interest—an inspiration, and a challenge. I enjoy meeting people and grappling with their problems” .