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FaxYourMP.com - Questions and Answers

How do I send a fax?
All you need is your postcode to start. Just go to the front page of the site, type it in and hit the "Go" button. Up will pop details of your local MP, along with a simple form in which you can start writing straight away. Don't forget to fill in your Name, Address and Email - we can't send the fax without these.

Now you can get in touch with your MP direct. FaxYourMP.com saves you the trouble of writing and sending your letter through the traditional routes. There's no cost to you - bar the cost of you being online in the first place.

Being part way through the process, you can choose to go offline if you like (keeping your browser windows open), to save yourself a bit of cash. 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 fax 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 MP to get in touch with you direct.

Next, press the "Preview" button to view your letter before sending it. Take a look to see if you have made your point or request as well as you want to. If you are not happy, you can click on "Edit this message" to go back to the original form, and change your letter. You can press on the "Start Faxing" button to start the process of faxing your MP.

Before FaxYourMP.com sends the fax, there is a simple fourth step. We send you an email explaining that someone purporting to be you wants to send a fax to a named MP. This email will also contain a copy of your letter, for you to keep as a reference. If the email cannot be sent for whatever reason, the fax will not be sent. If the email goes unanswered, the fax will not be sent. For these reasons, make sure you type in your email address correctly on the form.

Your MP will be faxed only after you have visited a web address (url) that we will send to you via email. No need to write anything on the mail - just click on the link, or copy and paste it in to your browser window and that's it. Fax sent.

If you would like a reply to your letter, don't forget to ask for one when composing your fax. It's up to the MP in question to get in touch with you. FaxYourMP.com cannot be held responsible for any Member of Parliament's failure get in touch. If, after a decent length of time you have heard nothing, then constituency surgeries or sending the same letter by traditional post may be a next step.

You can write to your MP at the following address:

House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

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Why do you want my address, name and email address?
Firstly to enable your MP to get in touch with you, and to help the fax that is sent look more like a formal letter. Secondly, to enable us to send you a copy of the letter you want to be faxed, and thirdly, to enable you to confirm who you are. FaxYourMP.com is concerned that this service is used in a responsible way by everyone. Which is why we built it responsibly.

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Why can't I fax any MP I like?
We believe MPs have a responsibility to listen and respond to the voters in their constituency. And we think MPs might, albeit grudgingly, agree with us. To work, FaxYourMP.com depends on that agreement.

We don't let anyone, anywhere fax any MP. If we did that, professional lobbyists would use us to blanket-fax every one of the MPs, in the same way as marketeers junk-mail as many people as they can. Parliament's fax machines soon be melting from irrelevant fax spam. Eventually, MPs would ignore every fax, and the constituents who we try to put in contact with the only person who can help them would get lost in the noise.

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Why shouldn't I copy and paste "form" letters?
We know your issue is important to you, but we've spoken to MPs - and if you are not a constituent, or you send a "copied and pasted" form letter, your fax will go straight into the parliamentary bin.

If you're a pressure group, please think about what you're doing. If you encourage all your members to write to the same MP, you will not show that MP the depth of support for your issue. You'll simply have used up a few sheets of tax-funded fax paper, and irritated an underpaid secretary or researcher. And if you encourage them all to send the same rote letter, MPs will just assume you have a nasty little man with a photocopier blasting them out from your office, and ignore you even more than they did before.

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What will you do with the very personal information I'm putting in to this site?
• We guarantee you we will not sell or distribute any information you give FaxYourMP.com
• We guarantee you we will not keep permanent copies of the letters you write to fax to your MP
• We store your name, email address and the name of your MP. We have had to do this in order to stop abuse of the service. We do not keep a copy of the body of your fax.
• We will not use this data for any other purpose other than to minimise abuse of the service.
• We will not be sending you unsolicited email.
• We are registered with the Data Protection Register in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. Our reference number is Z5178024.

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Who are you and why are you doing this?
We are a not-for-profit group of individuals who belong to no lobbying groups, no political parties and will happily declare any of our interests if asked. The driving reason for us to build this facility is so that people like you can make direct contact with the MP elected to Parliament to represent the area in which you live.

In order to sign the contracts to enable the service to be carried on various interactive TV platforms, we were obliged to form a limited UK company - FaxYourMP Ltd.

FaxYourMP Limited owns and runs this website and its sister service catering for interactive TV users on a strictly not-for-profit basis. FaxYourMP Limited is Registered Company Number 4176048 (Directors: James Cronin and Tom Loosemore). We're happy to divulge our accounts should anyone want to see them. Just email us at info@faxyourmp.com

Remember that it doesn't matter who you voted for personally, the MP who was elected for your constituency is duty bound to listen to your concerns. We think that is a very important thing, and we want to help to promote their ability to listen to you.

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So what's you angle - you must be hoping to make money on this?
Nope. Running a Website, contrary to what most highly-paid Net consultants will tell you, can come in very, very cheap. If you can get enough people to volunteer their time and expertise (there's a bunch of us - you can see the names by clicking here), you can create even quite complex Internet projects for almost no money. A large proportion of how the Internet works is based on volunteer projects like ours.

Of course - it's a little more than just late nights after work. There are a couple of servers we use (thanks to Stu Tily and The Flirble Organisation, which itself has its bandwidth kindly donated by Easynet). The postcode data was purchased with a small monetary donation by a friend of the volunteers. Finally the fax phone call charges are covered by Internet Vision Ltd.

So it really is all for love and fun - though we'd be lying if we said we didn't enjoy winning all the awards.

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There's a statement about signatures at the bottom of my fax. What's that about?

Recently, a small group of MPs have started replying to constituents who used FaxYourMP, saying that they could not possibly respond to unsigned faxes. Because FaxYourMP messages weren't signed, the MPs couldn't be sure that they were genuine. The constituents were asked to resubmit their request in handwritten form.

This was a bit confusing to us. 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 we though: aha, perhaps this is some legal requirement. We understand that a lot of MPs are lawyers, so they're probably very good about this kind of thing. Perhaps even better than they were at simply answering constituents' requests.

Well, fortunately, if it's legality they're worried about, we found 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 MP, your electronic signature is legally valid. You may point this out to your MP when they start replying to your faxes, telling you how they can't reply to your faxes, because they don't know who you are.

And what's the strange '0c0c38720cde084343' bit signify? It's an MD5 hash of your e-mail address. Very impressive to overly legalistic MPs. Highly technical.

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Can I check the fax 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 fax, 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.

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How is it sent to MPs?
You may have heard of companies that allow you to send faxes via email. FaxYourMP.com works in a similar way. We have built a heavily customised "web to fax gateway". Not that that tells you much, but it does sound good. The process is entirely automatic, all the software we use is free, and we wrote the code ourselves in our spare time.

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Can you guarantee my fax will be sent?
Sadly, no. We are missing fax numbers for about a dozen MPs, and the remainder are forever changing their fax numbers for good reasons. We do our best to keep the fax numbers up to date. Faxes can also fail to be sent due to mis-matches between fax machines (though this is rare) and sometimes MPs switch off their Westminster faxes during Parliamentary recesses and/or overnight. It would probably be better to send faxes to MPs' constituency offices, rather than to their offices at Westminster, but at present the potential for a very large phone bill puts us off...

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Why not just use MPs' e-mail addresses? Wouldn't it be easier?
You would think that, wouldn't you? Unfortunately, the task of turning government into "e-government" is taking longer than anyone would want. At present, not only can we not guarantee that MPs have an email address, but whether they would treat any communication they receive by email seriously.

However, a noble handful of honourable members *do* use email to communicate to their constituents, and in response to their promptings we have added in a feature that will send them an email rather than a fax from the site. We don't publish their email address as part of this process, and we can't send you a "Your MP has received your message" confirmation email in such cases. Sorry.

FaxYourMP.com 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 MP will view the fax you send, and we can't follow up any enquiries you make regarding your communication from your MP.

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What do I do if I think something went wrong, or if I see an error on the site?
Then we really want to hear from you.
Whilst we offer this service for free, we still want it to work! Don't hesitate to mail us at the following email address to let us know if anything strange happens (while you use the site, not in life generally), you see any error messages or simply if you want to get in touch with us for any reason.

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info@faxyourmp.com

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