Dizzy Thinks has been on the case again about the costs run by Early Day Motions in Parliament. As he delicately puts it:
Yes, we really do have to spend £150K alone on the salary, pension and NI contributions for the poor sods that have to sort out the latest self-congratulatory bollocks that our MPs want to spout off fruitlessly about.
The combination of cost and triviality of many EDMs has caused some people to call for their abolition. That is going too far, as some EDMs do provide a useful mechanism, as a focus for external campaign groups, to get MPs to put their views on the public record and to show the volume of support on an issue.
Many do not, so here are three simple suggestions for reforming EDMs.
First, as Dizzy and others have pointed out, there is really no need to print the EDMs on paper. An electronic version achieves all the benefits just as well (and in fact pretty much all that is needed already exists online). So abolish the paper versions.
Second, a large number of EDMs get only a trivial number of signatures. In the 2009-10 Parliamentary session, for example, of the 1,315 EDMs and amendments, 383 (29%) got 20 signatures or fewer; 205 of those even received only 10 signatures or fewer.
So a simple introduction of a minimum number of initial signatories would cut out a huge amount of the trivial. Requiring signatures from members of at least two parties (or independents) would also focus minds on using EDMs for something other than a simple extension of usual party hostilities.
And third? Have a quiet word with Robert Halfon, the champion of the unsuported EDM. In the current Parliamentary session, the newly elected Conservative MP for Harlow, has managed an impressive 10 of the 33 EDMs or amendments which have only been signed by one MP so far.
His EDM about fibreglass sheep in Harlow, however, is not one of those. Not only has it won four signatures, they cross party lines too. So lovers of Parliamentary action on fibreglass sheep can rest easy. They would be safe from this reforming axe. You can only have so much reform you know.
Thanks to Dizzy for the tip on how to get the data about number of signatures per EDM.