By Jonathan Isaby
Early Day Motions are oft referred to as "parliamentary grafitti": they are effectively petitions which only MPs can sign and are often tabled with the sole intention of allowing an MP to issue a press release to their local paper beginning "Local campaigning MP Joe Bloggs has tabled a motion in Parliament demanding…" in the knowledge that few people will ever read it, let alone debate it.
And it has to be said that with each Parliamentary Session it does seem that more and more frivolous and pointless Early Day Motions are being tabled.
This has promoted four of the new Tory intake to call for them to be reformed or abolished.
Graham Evans, Nick de Bois, Steve Baker and Guy Opperman have made their point by way of an, er EDM – Number 432 in fact, which reads:
"That this House regrets the continuing decline in
importance of Early Day Motions which have become a campaign tool for
external organisations; notes the role of public affairs professionals
in drafting Early Day Motions and encouraging members of the
organisations they represent to send pro forma emails and postcards to
hon. Members; further notes the huge volume of correspondence that this
generates and the consequent office and postage costs incurred;
believes that the organisations involved derive little benefit from
Early Day Motions, which very rarely have any influence on policy;
further believes that public affairs professionals are aware of the
ineffectiveness of Early Day Motions, but continue to use them to
attempt to justify their services; questions the value for money to the
taxpayer of Early Day Motions of whatever origin; and calls for the
system of Early Day Motions to be reformed or abolished."
However, Tory MP Julian Lewis has tabled the following amendment, deleteing all and inserting:
"recognises that Early Day Motions provide one of only a
few methods of registering the views of large numbers of hon. Members,
other than by votes in the House; believes that they enable hon.
Members to generate support for worthwhile causes; consequently opposes
their abolition; and accordingly advises hon. Members who do not wish
to sign them simply to decline to do so."
I'm with Julian Lewis on this. The massive cross party support for the Save General Election Night campaign last year was able to be demonstrated by Tom Harris's EDM, for example, and they remain a way of enabling MPs to get their points of view about certain issues out in the public domain and I would not want to see them abolished.
That said, I accept that there is an argument for saying that MPs should have to attain a reasonable number of signatures before public money is spent printing the motion and that motions congratulating local sporting teams on victories and promotions really are a waste of said money.