Help - Frequently Asked Questions


How do people use TheyWorkForYou?

Here are some quotes from our users.

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

"TheyWorkForYou.com 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."
Is this the whole of Hansard?

TheyWorkForYou currently contains:

  • Hansard Commons debates back to the General Election of 1935;
  • knowledge of MPs back to 1806 or thereabouts;
  • Hansard Commons written answers and written ministerial statements back to the General Election of June 2001;
  • Hansard Commons Public Bill Committees (previously called Standing Committees) back to the start of the 2000–01 session.
  • Hansard House of Lords Hansard (except Grand Committees) back to around November 1999;
  • knowledge of 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, and all MSPs.

But this is by no means everything. Think of what we've done thus far as a mere taster of what could be possible. In the future we’d like to do things such as future business, more coverage of Bills, and so on. If you want the complete, definitive record, go to the UK Parliament site, and you might be able to find what you want.

How do you moderate annotations?

Ideally, we won't. If everyone keeps to the House Rules, that is. But we're not naive enough to think that life online is that simple. TheyWorkForYou.com operates a 'reactive moderation' policy. We will only check whether an annotation breaches our House Rules if someone lets us know of their concerns via the Report link, which can be found next to every annotation. If we decide that the annotation has breached our House Rules, we will delete it and let the original author know via email. We will also give them opportunity to rephrase and resubmit their orginal annotation. If we deem the annotation to be legit, we'll leave it up, and email the complainant to let them know why. We will do our utmost to respond to reports of potential breaches of our House Rules as soon as we can, but please bear in mind that this service is run by a tiny charity and some volunteers.

What is your privacy policy?

Our privacy policy is very simple:

  1. We guarantee we will not sell or distribute any personal information you share with us
  2. We will not be sending you unsolicited email
  3. We will gladly show you the personal data we store about you in order to run the website.
What is your cookie policy?

We use cookies to save you from having to repeatedly sign in to the site, and also to remember your postcode. We may also use them to record if you've answered one of the survey questions we ask. The site will work with cookies disabled, but it won't be as good.

What are these survey questions?

In order to improve the site we're asking some questions to help us understand who uses the site and what they want. The answers are completely anonymous.

What's that weird 'extreme tracker' and 'urchin' javascript I spy in your page source?

We use Extreme DB and Google Analytics to track aggregated traffic through the website. It captures nothing that you won't find in an Apache logfile, but has an interface we like, and is dead easy to use. Rest assured, we only track usage data for one reason only: to help us understand how we can make the site work better for you lot. If anyone wants to whinge about 'Web Bugs', expect short shrift.

What is RSS?

RSS files contain information about a list of things: diary entries, speeches, etc. and are formatted to be readable by computer programs, rather than humans. So what use are they? You can use a program called a news reader to store the locations of RSS feeds, and each time one is updated - with new diary entries or speeches - you can easily see what's new. It saves you visiting web pages on the off-chance anything new has appeared. Popular RSS readers are Sharpreader for Windows or NetNewsWire Lite for Macs. Bloglines is an online RSS reader.

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.

If you put in some work, we will add new policies to the voting record section. You need to research the policy, and make up a list of divisions in Parliament relating to it and which way the votes go. You can then enter these into the Public Whip site. When you're done, contact us to get us to add it to TheyWorkForYou. You must also be prepared to maintain this list of votes as more related ones are cast in future.

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 got its ministerial information, as with much else, by scraping various pages on the official parliament.uk site. Since the 16th of January 2009, the page on Parliamentary Private Secretaries, that until that date listed them all, simply says they do not maintain such a list. This means our scraper can no longer find and work out the information, and so we do not know the current PPSes.

This is obviously disappointing, but without a central list of Parliamentary Private Secretaries, there doesn't appear to be a lot we can do. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

The date someone starts/ends a ministerial position is wrong!

TheyWorkForYou got its ministerial information, as with much else, by scraping various pages on the official parliament.uk site. Sadly, the site was sometimes out of date or incorrect, which will of course lead to incorrect information appearing on our site too. Due to the way it all hangs together (with lots of bits of string), it is not at all simple to override or fix these at present.

What is an Independent, or Independent <party> MP?

If an MP is a member of a local, perhaps one-issue, party, or is not a member of any political party, TheyWorkForYou lists them as Independent, e.g. Richard Taylor or Robert Wareing. If an MP does not take the party whip, but is a member of that party, we list them as either Independent followed by the party name, e.g. Clare Short.

Do you have the data as a spreadsheet file, XML or in an API?

Yes. We have an API (Application Programming Interface) which gives you the power to do almost anything with our data. Alternatively, you can get XML files, which can be loaded into many spreadsheets. If you just need a spreadsheet of MPs, you'll find one on the right hand side of this page. Please mail us if you want help working out how to use the data, or want to hire us to make something specific for you.