The newly elected Tory MP for Weaver Vale, Graham Evans, has just tabled one of the more entertaining Early Day Motions (EDMs) of the 2010-11 session. I quote (my emphasis):
That this House regrets the continuing decline in importance of Early Day Motions which have become a campaign tool for external organisations; notes the role of public affairs professionals in drafting Early Day Motions and encouraging members of the organisations they represent to send pro forma emails and postcards to Honourable Members; further notes the huge volume of correspondence that this generates and the consequent office and postage costs incurred; believes that the organisations involved derive little benefit from Early Day Motions, which very rarely have any influence on policy; further believes that public affairs professionals are aware of the ineffectiveness of Early Day Motions, but continue to use them to attempt to justify their services; questions the value for money to the taxpayer of Early Day Motions of whatever origin; and calls for the system of Early Day Motions to be reformed or abolished.
It is frightfully true that the correspondence derived from the EDM 'industry' is cyclopean and can take up a great chunk of time for MPs and their staff. I have little doubt that swathes of lobbyists with questionable value rely on their existence for subsistence.
Yet EDMs can be informative and applied: once upon a time in excess of four hundred MPs signed an EDM about climate change legislation and provoked the Labour Government into formulating a Climate Change Bill.
EDMs also serve to raise awareness for campaigns and issues that would otherwise have slipped under the radar.
I am told that the average cost of printing and publishing EDMs runs to more than £500,000 per year. It is not an insignificant sum. Quite coincedentally, it is also the amout of cash that Speaker Bercow hopes to save by making staff stump up more money for food and drink on the parliamentary estate. EDMs, or a cheaper lunch commensurate to most large London firms? I am torn.
Oh well. As the great and learned Harold Macmillan once said: "priorities, dear boy, priorities." Or something along those lines.