Friday, February 23, 2007

Cleansing Parliamentary Graffiti

Earlier this week Dizzy wrote about the spiralling cost of Early Day Motions. Printing them on the order paper costs a massive £627,000 a year. We can all name ridiculous EDMs which backbench MPs put down to curry favour with their local papers and constituents. The most recent example was where Andrew Pelling MP put down an EDM commiserating with Rick Stein about the death of his Jack Russell. Utterly preposterous.

So this set me thinking. Should EDMs be abolished, or is there something constructive that could be done with them? They were once described as 'graffiti on the walls of Parliament' as they never get debated. So my proposal is this: to make them more relevant there would be two one hour debates every week (maybe in Westminster Hall) on the two EDMs that gain the most signatures in a given week. That way people could lobby their MPs to sign EDMs and there would at least be some outcome at the end of the process.

Any other ideas?

22 comments:

Colin D said...

Iain: are you trying to make "Time wasters" not waste time. A bit like making water run up hill. me thinks

Anonymous said...

Excellent idea Iain! It would, as you say, bring EDMs back into the democratic process out of cloud cuckoo land where that motion on the jack russell belongs.

David Anthony said...

I'd like to see EDMs replaced with public votes for debating time .. it could easily be done with a slight modification to the e-petition system. Read more at my blog.

Let's face it. even the public could not do worse than Andrew Pelling.

Anonymous said...

Well they 'can' be debated, it's just rare that they are, Iain.

I remember the 1989 EDM on war crimes was given debating time in the House of Commons.

From my experiences, they can be successful in getting particular companies to change their policies on certain matters.

The Procedure Committee are having a future inquiry on the matter too, along with one on written parliamentary questions in the coming months. I'm sure the results will make interesting reading.

Daily Referendum said...

Abolish them. Would getting rid of them have any effect on the running of the country? - apart from saving some money for a change.

Newmania said...

Its not an enormous amount of Money . Croydonian discoivered that they spend more than that on the logo for Customs and Revenue £720,000.
I don`t think that should be the issue at least.I wonder if they could be linked into the now commion web portests. the Indi has a good front page noting that mass opinion is feeding though very quickly on a range of isues .

Why not have debate at least raised from below ?

jailhouselawyer said...

This is a large bill, for what, is in effect, toilet paper.

anon and on and on said...

"Strictly Daily Motion", ideally hosted by Graham Norton every week.

The cost of printing all this pointless confetti could be covered by the premium rate phone votes, and then the two finalists might get to tango with sub-c'lebs (you know the type - Andrew Flintoff, or some tart from Emmerdale) in Westminster Hall - winner's issue debated thereafter.

Pedant said...

Iain, What would the hon. Member for Keighley do with her time? 648 signed so far this session

Anonymous said...
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Justin Hinchcliffe said...

Yes, do away with them. There are four Conservative MPs who are willing to add their names to just about every EDM doing the rounds - they often contradict each other! They are: Peter Bottomley, Derek Conway, Bob Spink and Mike Penning.

On the other hand, the eminently sensible Roger Gale (Con, Thanet North) refuses to sign them. This has been his policy since entering the House in 1983.

Message to Andrew Rosindell: nobody gives a toss if the Harold Wood Boys' Club comes third in some dart competition. Equally, people don’t stop functioning if the Union Flag is flown upside down from the top of Canary Wharf!

The Infidel said...

If the EDM's are to be selected by most MP's you would need safe guards so that they did no become an instrument of government control i.e. government payroll not being able to sign - although isn't there convention that they do not sign them now. Or why not just get the speaker to select two. Or even pull two from the top 10 out of the petitions bag behind the speakers chair just before PMQ's - as this is the most watched parliamentary event people will witness parliament being relevant!!!

James said...

While I think your idea has some merit Iain, the most obvious way to cut the cost of EDMs would be to simply have an online system which MPs could use to sign up directly, and then DON'T print them onto bits of dead tree.

I do see a value in the EDM system, but I don't see a single good reason for why they should cost more to run than this weblog.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm.. I kinda agree with colin d - there are a 101 anachronisms one could find in the Houses of Westminster, but the trouble is to change them all would lose many of the good traditions of parliamentary democracy. If it ain't broke, don't fix it...

In any case, I'm always very suspicious of these 'costings' that people come up with. In most cases, like accountants, they have been asked to justify a particular arguments and fit the 'facts around the policy'.

Now what else does that remind you of...

Chris Paul said...

Tax any wasters like the Jack russell man the full (£645?) cost of any mischievious or flippant or stupid EDMs. Perhaps make a class of local or niche EDMs that are online only. Perhaps require five or ten sigs for a real EDM?

Colin said...

Hang on a moment here -

Chalky - Rick Stein's Jack Russell dog - had more charm and character and had a larger following than many television 'stars' or, dare I say it, politicians. So it is right and entirely proper that Parliament should mark his passing and commiserate with Rick. The nation mourns.

But - yes, otherwise you're right about EDMs.

Anonymous said...

Or follow the lead of the Scottish Parliament where members can star a motion - asking that it be considered for a members debate.

Members debates are then taken for 30 minutes, twice per week when Parliament is in session. Whilst members do not vote on these debates, a member of the Scottish Executive is present to respond.

Motions and members debates are a useful way for MSPs with little other power or influence to raise issues - and an important way for civic Scotland to access the political process.

Sure there are some questionable motions - but the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages...

Anonymous said...

I think members of the public, such as ourselves, should influence policy debates. The actual mechanics of the Parliamentary process should be left to the MPs. Plenty of people don't like 'filibustering' and other games played by the political parties, but it does keep some crappy, ill-thought out legislation from being steam rollered through by the Government of the day. Any time / money they waste on EDMs is time / money they can't waste on adding to the already over-burdened statute books.

Big Andy said...

Anonymous 3:51

'If it aint broke, dont fix it...'

If this isn't broken i dread to think what is!

The real problem is that we have some of the worst legislation passing our parliament ever, with oversights so glaring that it is hard to credit.

And valuable parliamentary resources are used on frivolity's.

The job of parliament is to ensure good governance through good legislation.

Currently our legislation is of an atrocious quality.

I would say: Back to Basics!

Mostly Ordinary said...

Pelling is a proper Tory, won a seat, dumped his wife and shacked up with a younger model. Ah, the good old days.

Anonymous said...

how about M.P's turning up to "The House" on a regular basis. Every time ~I turn on the TV to the Parliament channel, there are so many empty green benches, it is shameful!

Harry Barnes said...

Most things that can be used for decent purposes can also be abused. The fact that EDMs can at times be criticised for their lack of significance, doesn't mean that they aren't also used for a great number of serious purposes. Getting rid of part of a democratic avenue for the expression of views in Parliament on cost grounds is crazy.