I often receive requests from constituents to sign Early Day Motions of EDMs, however like many MPs I do not sign EDMs, no matter how worthy the cause. I realise this is a source of disappointment to some of those who contact me and I would like to make it clear that not signing an EDM does not mean that I do not care about the issue at hand, I just do not believe that EDMs are a good way to achieve anything. EDMs cost a huge amount to administer each year and I do not think they are good value for money.
In essence EDMs have no chance of changing the law and serve as petitions that only MPs can sign. I feel that they have now been superseded by e-petitions which can be signed by everyone. It does, of course, take little effort to sign an EDM, therefore it would probably be easier if I just signed them but I think this would be wrong because I would be giving a false impression that action was being taken. All I would be doing would be to support an expensive device which I knew carried no weight whatsoever.
It costs the taxpayer a considerable amount to print and prepare EDMs and yet many of them are little more than vanity projects for MPs or tools for professional lobbyists.
I appreciate that at the time of their conception EDMs were an important way in which to attract attention to causes, however, with social media there are a myriad of ways in which people's attention can be brought to certain issues without using public funds.
Indeed, a point often raised is that many EDMs are entirely trivial or narcissistic. Most recently, the House of Commons library has said it costs an average of £271 to publish each motion - this means that roughly £271 was spent on EDMs such as EDM 1184 Invergordon Academy which congratulates the academy for receiving a £600 grant.
Some EDMs are humorous. For example, you have the following EDM from 2004:
EDM 1255 Pigeon Bombs
That this House is appalled, but barely surprised, at the revelations in M15 files regarding the bizarre and inhumane proposals to use pigeons as flying bombs; recognises the important and live-saving role of carrier pigeons in two world wars and wonders at the lack of gratitude towards these gentle creatures; and believes that humans represent the most obscene, perverted, cruel, uncivilised and lethal species ever to inhabit the planet and looks forward to the day when the inevitable asteroid slams into the earth and wipes them out thus giving nature the opportunity to start again.
Amusing yes, a good use of taxpayers' money, no.
A more serious concern with regard to EDMs is that many include very specific and technical wording inferring specialist knowledge that has clearly not been written by the MP supporting it. In some of these cases I think it is clear that the text has been prepared by lobbyists. In the spirit of transparency where EDMs are written by lobbyists, that should be clearly stated but it is not.
I believe that there are ways in which EDMs could be reformed to make them better value for money and a more useful democratic tool. In 2013 I gave evidence to a Parliamentary committee on this issue, and continue to hope that EDMs can be reformed. Perhaps then they will be worth the electronic 'ink' that signs them.