UK Politics

MPs in fight over Commons early day motions

Image caption Some EDMs get on a handful of backers, others considerably more

Four Conservative MPs are calling for the parliamentary practice of early day motions (EDMs) to be axed, claiming they are costly and of little use.

EDMs are a way of MPs drawing attention to a particular issue but critics say they are seldom debated in the Commons.

It is claimed that 470 motions have been launched since the election - including ones marking the achievements of various cricket and football teams.

But Tory MP Julian Lewis said they helped MPs support "worthwhile causes".

Fellow Conservative Nick de Bois has launched an EDM calling for the system of setting down motions itself to be "reformed or abolished".

'PR tool'

It laments the "continuing decline" in the importance of EDMs, arguing they are often drafted by the public relations staff of external organisations for whom they serve as a "campaign tool".

Mr de Bois, told BBC Radio 5 Live: "The reality is that they are overused.

"They become, in many cases, a tool that some people may use in a marginal constituency to then promote the fact they had put an EDM down."

The MP said the whole system could cost up to £500,000 a year - since each time a new motion was put down, the entire lot had to be updated - and questioned the value of the practice to taxpayers.

"The main point about them of course is, certainly in my opinion, they don't actually achieve a lot," he said.

"EDMs, as far as I am aware, I cannot recall when anything went on to become a serious motion debated in the house or went on to become something in law."

Registering views

The motion has been signed by 10 MPs.

Motions put down in the past two months include ones praising the achievements of the English cricket team and Scottish Cup winners Dundee United as well as one noting the centenary of the Girl Guides.

But in the last Parliament, those calling for binding legislation on reducing carbon emission and urging Royal Mail to remain in public ownership attracted hundreds of signatures and widespread political attention.

Conservative MP Julian Lewis has put down a rival motion calling for the current practice of EDMs to be left in tact.

He says they provide one of few ways for MPs to register their views on an issue besides casting votes.

"They enable honourable members to generate support for worthwhile causes," he writes, adding that he advises "members who do not wish to sign them simply to decline to do so."

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