What are my rights?

  tasslehoff burrfoot 00:09 21 Oct 2006

I read in a newspaper recently that it's scandalous that children are not taught, as part of the national curriculum, what their rights are as citizens of the UK. And what obligations their MP has to them.

Well I left school over a decade ago and I have no idea. Can any one point me to a definitive guide on the internet?

I'm a civil servant so I know people can complain to their MP about the service I provide (although, of course, they would have no reason to) but what else?

For example(s):

I understand the railways used to be government run but are not anymore(?) can I still complain about poor service?

Can I escalate a complaint to my local council to my MP?

Can I complain about over-priced goods?

Illegitimate trading practices creating a stranglehold on a certain product base by a company?

How do I do these things?

  Kate B 00:16 21 Oct 2006

Well, of course you can. Who's stopping you? You don't need permission to complain. And a bit of research will usually throw up who best to complain to.

  josie mayhem 00:21 21 Oct 2006

Rights and expectations are a dangerous thing...

  tasslehoff burrfoot 00:25 21 Oct 2006

Of course I can complain, hint, suggest etc. but what can I complain, hint, suggest about that my MP can take action on?

I mean, I can complain to the person next to me at the bus stop, but nothing will come of it.

  Kate B 00:34 21 Oct 2006

Anything you like! Really, I don't understand what you're getting at. Your MP of course might not be able to help - half the secret of complaining is working out, usually for yourself, who it's most effective to complain to; but I don't see that you need permission nor that children need to be taught what their "rights" are about complaining.

If it's rubbish, complain. If service in a restaurant is poor, complain to the manager and don't leave a tip. If your rubbish collection is, er, rubbish, complain to the environmental health department of your council. If your councillor is rubbish, complain to the party leader of the council. Etc. It's not rocket science, just common sense.

  Forum Editor 00:41 21 Oct 2006

You don't need anyone's permission to complain - just do it.

I really don't agree that it's "scandalous" for children not to be taught in school about the meaning of being a UK citizen - surely that's something their parents should be doing?

Our country doesn't have (and has never had) a written constitution in which the rights of its citizens are set forth - we've relied on a mixture of legislation and the concept of what's called residual freedom. Our courts protect our rights under the various laws which govern us as a nation. We have the 1998 Human Rights Act, which had the effect of bringing the European convention of human rights into UK law, and gives every one of us the ability to challenge decisions taken by our government departments.

One of the real problems with having a written constitution is that it would tend to undermine parliamentary sovereignty - the tradition that no government can be irrevocably bound to abide by the actions of a former government. Many people believe it is just that which makes our democratic system the envy of many other countries.

Over the years there have been many attempts to interest the population in a written constitution, but all have failed. It seems that when it comes to it we're just not that interested. We're more than adequately protected by our legislative framework already - our consumer-protection laws are probably the best in the world for instance - and there's little need for a constitution to be set down on paper.

  tasslehoff burrfoot 00:47 21 Oct 2006

but I may have worded the question wrongly. Where I said "what their rights are as citizens of the UK. And what obligations their MP has to them."

I meant what their rights are with regard to the obligations MPs have to joe public, I wasn't asking if it's okay to complain generally.

I am perfectly aware that, should I receive poor service in a restaurant, I should complain to the manager. And, if the manager does not resolve my compaint, I wouldn't expect my MP to do anything.

You say "If your rubbish collection is, er, rubbish, complain to the environmental health department of your council" I specifically asked if I could escalate this complaint to my MP, I'm (normally) aware of who to complain to, my point was that it is, apparently, scandalous that children are not taught about reciprocal obligations between themselves and th government, and yet I don't know either. And if I don't I'm pretty sure most of the people I went to school with don't either. Or are you suggesting that every person born in the same year as me lacks common sense?

  Kate B 00:49 21 Oct 2006

Are children taught about how parliamentary democracy works, how the party political system works, devolved local government etc? I ask because I'm not a parent and I genuinely don't know if this stuff is taught in schools. If it's not, it should be. Understanding the practical structure of our democracy would give people like Tasslehoff Burrf an understanding that s/he appears to lack, presumably through no fault of his/her own.

  tasslehoff burrfoot 00:54 21 Oct 2006

the things you mention were not taught whilst I was at school, the newspaper article I read led me to believe the situation had worsened.

The article stated, something along the lines of, every person in the UK has certain rights with regard to what their elected member of parliament can, and must attempt to, do.

All I wanted was a link to a site that would explain this to me.

  Snec 01:10 21 Oct 2006

Hopefully all will appear clearer to you in the morning.

  Kate B 01:17 21 Oct 2006

Why is it scandalous?

MPs are broadly obliged to represent their constituents, though of course that is dependent on his or her party's manifesto. Unfortunately I have a Tory MP who won't really be representing my views but that's the nature of our first-past-the-post electoral system.

Try click here

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