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Should Early Day Motions Be Abolished?

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Brandon Lewis is the latest MP to say Early Day Motions are an expensive and ineffective lobbying tool, and that he wants nothing to do with them. So the questions are, what real value do they have, and if there isn't any, should their role be reviewed, and even abolished if they are ineffective?

In his latest newsletter to constituents, Brandon, Conservative MP for Great Yarmouth, explains his reasons:

"On a daily basis, I receive numerous requests to sign various Early Day Motions in Parliament. In essence, these parliamentary petitions highlight a particular issue normally promoted by a campaign group or a public relations company. I remain sceptical of their ability to change government policy and see them as an expensive (they cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands every year) and ineffective tool for a Member of Parliament to use. That is why, as a rule, I have declined to sign them during my time in Parliament.

"Personal lobbying both behind the scenes and during debates in the House of Commons, I find, is far more effective in convincing government ministers or a public body to change course. Working together and putting aside political differences, Norfolk MPs have been formidable in using this technique to get the A11 upgraded and save RAF Marham from closure. Other groupings of MPs are campaigning on important issues like a freeze in fuel tax to help motorists. Whenever the opportunity arises, I am happier to roll up my sleeves and campaign in this way rather than put my name to another list that ministers can so easily cast aside."

These views were also expressed by fellow Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris last November on the PoliticsHome website, and he suggests that 10 MPs should propose an EDP before it is tabled for debate:

"I'm afraid I haven't signed any yet and don't plan on changing that in the future, as I think they are pretty much politically impotent and too costly. One of the main reasons (if not the main reason) why so few people sign EDMs is that in the past few years they have turned into the tool of the crap lobbyist ...

"Supposedly EDMs cost around £500 a go and we have already had 2423 tabled in this Parliament. Looking through the titles of the EDMs you'll see many a worthy political cause being lauded, people recently passed away remembered and an abundant amount of motherhood and apple pie. Yet even the most benign EDM rarely gets more than 50 signatories; indeed, many barely scrape into double figures.

"I really do think that we need to change how EDMs can be sponsored before too many MPs decide to call it a day on them. Surely a sensible solution would be to say that an individual Member should not be allowed to table an EDM? We should at least try to separate the more popular ones by asking that there be at least ten MPs proposing for it to be accepted as being tabled and thus, opened up for others to sign.

"If you are a business, charity or NGO and your public affairs outfit recommends an EDM - fire them immediately! Few people take any notice of them and so they are really no more than political graffiti."

On the face of it, an EDM should stimulate debate, but the parliamentary website says that does not seem to be happening:

"Early Day Motions (EDMs) are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons. However, very few are actually debated. EDMs allow MPs to draw attention to an event or cause. MPs register their support by signing individual motions."

"If you are a business, charity or NGO and your public affairs outfit recommends an EDM - fire them immediately! Few people take any notice of them and so they are really no more than political graffiti."

Some motions which seem very worthwhile, for example, are exempting air ambulance services from VAT on fuel costs in line with the Lifeboat Service exemption, and Zac Goldsmith would like to see regulations introduced which require academies and free schools to adhere to the same standards for school food which is mandatory for local authority schools.

I wonder why a debate is necessary for these issues, and why common sense cannot dictate that they are both worth supporting and implementing. It's great to hear that Brandon works as a coalition with fellow MPs of all parties for the good of their constituents, and welcomes hearing from campaign groups and lobbyists to discuss causes, and how effective this has been.

Any good business should always be flexible and review its procedures, and this includes having a modern parliament which works effectively to save time and money and has the confidence of the public and the people who work within it.