Frequently Asked Questions

First things first

What is TheyWorkForYou?
TheyWorkForYou is a website with a simple aim: to make it much easier for anyone to understand exactly what is going on in Parliament.
Is it run by the government?
No: it’s a completely independent project, which has been run by the UK charity mySociety since 2006.
Why is it called TheyWorkForYou?

Because that’s the fundamental concept of a democracy: we vote our representatives in, and they work on our behalf.

Perhaps you feel that your representative isn’t, in fact, working very hard or very effectively? Well, that’s one thing that TheyWorkForYou can help with: it can show you what your representative is doing – and if you find that unsatisfactory, it also shows you how to contact them and tell them about it.


Where does the content come from?

Most of the content you’ll see on this site – the debates, the facts and figures about MPs – is imported from elsewhere.

Debates, for example, come from the official parliamentary Hansard. MPs’ positions, interests and job titles also come from parliamentary sources.

The difference between TheyWorkForYou and the Parliament website? We give the data a bit of a polish: we make it easier to follow debates by highlighting who’s speaking, for example, and allow you to search and link to them too.

We also perform some automated analysis, for example, MPs’ pages will tell you how many times they have spoken, and whether that’s above or below average.

Voting content is taken from Public Whip, a separate project (not run by us) which also works with scraped parliamentary data.

Do you keep archives of debates?

Yes! That means that TheyWorkForYou is also a rich, accessible historic resource.

Here’s everything you’ll find on the site currently:

  • House of Commons debates back to the General Election of 1935;
  • Data on MPs back to 1806 or thereabouts;
  • House of Commons written answers and written ministerial statements back to the General Election of June 2001;
  • House of Commons Public Bill Committees (previously called Standing Committees) back to the start of the 2000–01 session.
  • House of Lords Hansard (except Grand Committees) back to around November 1999;
  • Data on Lords back to the House of Lords Act 1999;
  • everything in the various Northern Ireland (Transitional) Assembly debates, and all MLAs;
  • everything in the Scottish Parliament official report until August 2014, and all MSPs.

It’s all searchable, and when you find part of a debate that interests you, you can share it, because each statement in every debate has its own URL (web address).

What should I do if I find an error on the site?

By all means let us know, but be aware that because, as explained above, much of our data replicates the official parliamentary source, the error may well originate from there.

Parliament undertakes a rolling process of corrections and updates. When their content is amended, the next time our site picks it up, our content should be amended too.

What does it mean when you say that a representative has “consistently” or “generally” voted for or against something?

MPs’ stances are made up from a number of different votes which Public Whip have deemed to be relevant to the topic. For example, an MP’s position on Trident is judged from the way he or she voted on each occasion listed here.

If an MP’s votes all, or almost all, align strongly with those listed on that page, we’d say they “consistently” voted in favour of Trident. MPs who have voted in a different way are marked as having “almost always voted for”, “generally voted against”, or “consistently voted against” the issue, depending on how many of their votes align with this list.

You can see a link at the end of every such statement on TheyWorkForYou, titled “details” – clicking on that will show you exactly which votes went towards any particular stance.

The votes that go to make up each position are carefully compiled by hand: we’ve written a couple of blog posts on how we do that: read the first one here and the second here.

I have an idea for a new feature – do you want to hear it?

We’d love to – but please be aware that we’re a small team, so we can’t always introduce new features as quickly as we’d like to. However:

  • We do adopt new ideas on a merit basis, so if enough people request a feature, it’s much more likely to get made;
  • The code behind TheyWorkForYou is open source, meaning that anyone can pick it up and work with it. If we can’t build the feature you want, you’re welcome to either build it yourself or find a developer who can (a good place to find developers is the TheyWorkForYou community mailing list – see if you can excite people enough, and you never know, someone might take your idea and run with it.) Do talk to us first though, to make sure no-one else is already working on a similar idea!
How do I submit photos of representatives?

We welcome contributions of images, especially for those representatives who don’t yet have one.

But please note that any image we use must have been released by its owner under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license – which means that anyone is free to copy and use the image themselves, with attribution.

Unfortunately, that means we can’t just use any old photo that you may have found on the web: it needs to be from a verified public domain source, or owned by you, or you need to have permission from the owner for it to be used on the site.

If that is the case then please do forward it to us and we will be happy to use it.

How is the voting record decided?

The voting record is not affected by what MPs and Peers have said, only how they voted in relation to that topic in the house – i.e. "aye" or "no". Votes on each topic were examined, and strength of support determined based on these votes. Follow the "votes" link next to each topic for details. Additionally, in many votes, MPs and Peers are told how to vote (“whipped”) by their parties. Since the Whip is secret, we have to assume, like the Speaker, that all votes are free.

Details of the votes on which each policy position is based are available on the Public Whip website. You can read more about the process we follow when researching the policy positions on our blog. Please contact us if you’ve spotted something which needs to be updated or corrected.

Why should I read in more depth than just the numbers?

A few people have asked why we publish statistics on how often MPs use alliterative phrases, such as "she sells seashells". It has even been mentioned in the House of Commons.

Simply put, we realise that data such as the number of debates spoken in means little in terms of an MP’s actual performance. MPs do lots of useful things which we don’t count yet, and some which we never could. Even when we do, a count doesn’t measure the quality of an MPs contribution.

After reading media reports like this one in The Times (cached article), and hearing from real MP’s researchers who have admitted to tabling questions to increase their boss’s rankings, we became concerned about the use of these statistics.

We’ve done two things. We’ve added the silly statistic, to catch your attention. And we’ve removed the absolute rankings. Instead of saying an MP is exactly 5th for giving out verbiage in the chamber, we now just say that they are "well above average".

Our advice — when you’re judging your MP, read some of their speeches, check out their website, even go to a local meeting and ask them a question. Use TheyWorkForYou as a gateway, rather than a simple place to find a number measuring competence.

If you have suggestions for other metrics we could add which would be useful, send them to the usual address. We’ve got a few ideas ourselves, to keep you on your toes.

Why are the PPS positions out of date?

TheyWorkForYou used to get its ministerial information, as with much else, by scraping various pages on the official site. The official site stopped maintaining a list of PPSs in January 2009, which means our scraper could no longer find and work out the information. Without a central list of Parliamentary Private Secretaries, there isn’t a lot we can do.

How can I search more smartly?

Click ‘Advanced search’ under the box on the search results page, and you’ll see a number of options for refining your results. But you can do everything that Advanced Search does, and even refine your search further, right from the search box.

  • To search for an exact phrase, use quotes (""). For example, to find only documents which contain the exact phrase "Hutton Report". Quotes can also be used to prevent stemming, so searching for “horse” will omit results for horses or horsing.
  • To exclude a word from your search, put a minus ("-") sign in front; for example to find documents containing the word "representation" but not the word "taxation": representation -taxation. “NOT” (in capitals) also works here: representation NOT taxation
  • If you want to search for words only when they're used near each other in the text, use "NEAR". For example, to find documents containing the word "elephant" near the word "room": elephant NEAR room
  • Find results including at least one of your search terms by using “OR”: education OR schools (we also have XOR if that’s useful).
  • Finally, you can restrict your results to specific content types by using shortcuts to our filters, which you can add to your search term. Here’s a selection – they can be used alone or in combination with one another:
    • Column: If you know the Hansard column number (perhaps you’re looking up a paper reference): column:123
    • Party: To restrict results to speakers from a specific party: party:Lab
    • Department: To bring up only results from speakers in a specific department: department:Defence
    • Section: To restrict results to a particular parliament or assembly (e.g. the Scottish Parliament), or a particular type of data within an institution, such as UK Written Ministerial Statements: section:scotland section:wms
    • Date: To search only for results from a specific date: date:20080716 (16th July 2008)
    • Or to return results between two specified dates (also requires a search term): hospitals 20080101..20080131 (mentions of hospitals in January 2008)

Data and code

What can I do with the TheyWorkForYou API?

The API queries the TheyWorkForYou database to return data on MPs or debates. It’s free for use that is both low-volume AND charitable, and there’s a small fee attached for any usage outside that.

Here’s some of the data you can fetch with the API:

  • Details of all MPs, either currently or at any date in the past
  • The boundaries of parliamentary constituencies
  • The content of debates between any two dates that you specify, or containing any keyword that you specify
  • A mixture of the above, for example, MPs’ names along with their speeches or the constituencies they represent.

And lots more – see the whole list on the API page.

How do people use TheyWorkForYou?

Here are some quotes from our users.

Jo Brodie, Science Information Officer & Islet Project Coordinator, Diabetes UK:

" contributes to my 'current awareness' of what is being said about diabetes and insulin (access to treatment, statistics etc) and other related health topics (for example organ transplantation and stem cell research as that's very relevant for diabetes and its complications too). The email alerts and RSS feeds mean the information lands rather helpfully in my intray.

"The Science Information Team at Diabetes UK occasionally gets asked stats questions on the numbers of people with diabetes, or a particular complication of diabetes, in a specific location. We don't have access to this sort of data but the top statisticians in the Department of Health do, so it's often worth our while having a quick search to see if something's been asked and answered.

"Even if a question results in "information of that nature is not held centrally", that's useful because we can demonstrate that there isn't a good answer and this will save the original enquirer spending time on a fruitless search.

"If information is forthcoming there is often a reference or info about the way in which the evidence was collected - if this is publicly available then we can use that resource to find other things. (I think this is how I found out about the Prescription Pricing Authority which deals with costs of medications - a useful resource when someone wants to know the impossible 'how many people use insulin?'). So basically it 'begets' further info!

"It's a great site - thank you."

Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough & Whitby:

"Use the site all the time and print off bits to send to constituents. My local newspapers are registered so they often cover my comments in Parliament that I wouldn't even send out as a press release."
I want a site like TheyWorkForYou for my country!

TheyWorkForYou’s code is completely open source and anyone is welcome to use it – however, we recommend using our more recent codebase Pombola, which is much easier to install and run. Drop us a line and we’ll be happy to explain more.


What is your privacy policy?

See our privacy policy page for details.


Email alerts

I’m trying to sign up for an email alert but the confirmation mail has not arrived
Please check your spam or junk folder. If you still can’t find the email, let us know and we’ll confirm you at our end.
How can I stop email alerts?
At the foot of every alert email, you will see a link. Click on this – no password required – and to the right of the page, you will see a list of every alert you are subscribed to. For each one, you can pause the alert, or delete it altogether.
How can I change or manage my email alerts?
Check this blog post where we have explained the best way to manage your email alerts.


My postcode isn’t recognised by your site

If your postcode is brand new, it’s possible that we don’t yet have the data to recognise it. The site will update in due course when we upload new data from Ordnance Survey. We’d suggest using a nearby postcode that you know to be in the same constituency.

Otherwise, please drop us a line and tell us the postcode you’re trying to input.

My postcode returns the wrong MP

Our postcode-to-constituency mapping is handled by MapIt, a piece of software which takes the centre point of a postcode and returns the constituency that point is in. In rare cases where postcodes straddle boundaries, this method delivers the wrong results for a handful of people.

At the moment, we can only suggest that you use a neighbouring postcode in order to bring up the right representatives.