I regularly get requests from constituents for me to sign what are called Early Day Motions (EDMs) of the House of Commons. I write back explaining why I don’t sign EDMs. This is what I say:
There are a number of reasons why I don’t sign EDMs.
The main one, as I have already said, is that they have no effect and there are numerous other ways which are effective in which I can raise an issue or lobby the Government.
Many MPs sign EDMs, I’m afraid, because it requires no effort and it gets the lobby group, charity or individual who is urging them to do so “off their backs”. Signing EDMs has become a displacement activity for doing something useful like writing personally to the Minister, raising the issue in questions or debates in Parliament, applying for a debate, tabling amendments to Bills etc – all of which require much more time and effort. Over the years a whole industry has grown up around EDMs with lobbyists and organisations encouraging members of the public to urge their MPs to sign them and judging their success/justifying their existence by how many do so. The tax payer also picks up a substantial bill for the cost of processing the hundreds of EDMs tabled each month.
This is why I took a principled decision many years ago never to sign EDMs. I regularly, however, write personally to Ministers asking them to respond to individual EDMs, as well as raising issues in the other useful and effective ways I have outlined above.
More and more MPs have been reaching my view. One has recently proposed abolishing EDMs altogether, while my Labour colleague Graham Allen MP has suggested reforms to give them teeth – which I would support.
In the mean time I am happy to highlight issues and lobby the Government in whatever useful ways I can, but will not waste your and my time and money by indulging the EDM industry.
I hope that explains my position.