Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney calls for reform of £1m-a-year Early Day Motions
by Barry Gibson, Huddersfield Daily Examiner Apr 23 2011
COLNE Valley’s MP has called for the £1m-a-year Parliamentary petition system to be scrapped
Jason McCartney is boycotting Early Day Motions (EDMs) – which are used by Members of Parliament to do everything from calling for better human rights in Burma to welcoming David Hasselhoff to Morecambe.
The Conservative MP has stopped signing the motions in protest at the cost of the system.
“People sign them and they don’t go anywhere,” he said. “Scrapping them would save £1m a year.”
Some 1,730 EDMs have been tabled since the current Parliament began last May. MPs sign the petitions to show their support for certain positions – but the motions do not trigger any action.
The most popular EDM, celebrating the traditional British pub, has been signed by 273 of the 650 MPs.
Other popular motions include support for the hunting ban, condemnation of Israel’s policy towards Gaza and a call for better human rights in Burma.
However, there are 49 EDMs signed only by the MP who started them – including a motion from Morecambe and Lunesdale Conservative MP David Morris calling on US President Barack Obama to visit his constituency.
Mr Morris also submitted an EDM congratulating former Baywatch star David Hasselhoff for visiting Morecambe. Two other MPs signed the motion.
Administering the EDM system cost taxpayers £1m in 2009/10 – with much of the cost going on printing and re-printing motions as each MP signs.
Mr McCartney said: “When a name is added, Parliamentary staff have to re-publish the EDM. It’s a very bureaucratic and wasteful process.”
Official figures show that printing and re-printing EDMs cost the taxpayer £776,000 in 2009/10. The system also cost £150,000 in officers’ time and around £87,000 in technical support, including IT.
Mr McCartney began boycotting EDMs shortly after he was elected to Parliament last year.
“I signed a few in my first months but, having talked to colleagues, I realised that the motions don’t go anywhere or trigger anything,” he said.
“I had thought that if you got a certain number of MPs to sign then something would happen – maybe if you got 100 names that would trigger a debate.
“But that’s not the case. They don’t go anywhere.”
Mr McCartney added: “Lobbyists like EDMs because it lets them look like they’re doing something.
“Some MPs sign anything that’s put in front of them. EDMs are no more than press releases.”
The Colne Valley MP believes there are better ways for backbenchers to get their views heard.
He said: “There are other ways of making things happen – you can have Westminster Hall debates, Private Members’ Bills, Ten-Minute Rule Bills.”
Early Day Motions are used by backbench MPs to draw attention to a matter of concern
The motion must be no more than 250 words long
According to a factsheet from the House of Commons Information Office: “The primary function of an EDM is to form a kind of petition that MPs can sign and there is very little prospect of these motions being debated on the floor of the House.”
The booklet adds that a motion “virtually never has any direct consequence” on Parliament
The number of EDMs has risen steadily in the last few decades from around 100 a year in the 1950s to the current average of more than 2,000
The most popular Early Day Motion ever was from Aberdeen North Labour MP Malcolm Savidge calling on India and Pakistan to avoid war. Some 502 MPs signed the motion in 2002.
BARRY SHEERMAN, Labour MP for Huddersfield, has signed 106 EDMs including:
Supporting modernisation of the House of Commons’ procedures
Backing the Not In My Cuppa campaign for better treatment of cows
Asking people not to eat meat on Mondays
Supporting a new hospital for Hartlepool
JASON McCARTNEY, Conservative MP for Colne Valley, has signed four EDMs including:
Recognising Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Rodney Park’s leadership during the Battle of Britain
Backing a new National Football Centre in Staffordshire
Welcoming the new Post Bank run by the Post Office
Saluting those who fought in the Battle of Britain
SIMON REEVELL, Conservative MP for Dewsbury, has signed 23 EDMs including:
Calling for an end to the manufacture of snares to trap wild animals
Encouraging employers to hire former soldiers
Calling for more physics graduates to go into teaching