Sunday, 8 March 2009

Early Day Motion

No, this has nothing to do with getting up at crack of dawn to kick-start your digestive transit.

Early day motions (EDMs) are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons. However, very few EDMs are actually debated. Instead, they are used for purposes such as publicising the views of individual MPs, drawing attention to specific events or campaigns, and demonstrating the extent of parliamentary support for a particular cause or point of view.

For example, here is Number 754, submitted on 10th February:
That this House expresses its support for the use of the combined MMR vaccine; notes with concern the re-emergence of measles and the loss of life and long-term health problems which will afflict children as a result of the decline in the vaccination rate which followed Dr Andrew Wakefield's now discredited research paper suggesting a link between MMR vaccine and autism; expresses its disappointment that ill-informed comments by presenters such as Jeni Barnett on her LBC radio show will continue to cause unfounded anxieties for many parents and are likely to result in some parents choosing not to vaccinate their children; recognises the right of Jeni Barnett as a parent to make her own judgement about vaccinations for her own children but implores her and others in the media to act more responsibly when making comments in the public domain; and further expresses its hope that in the future reporting the issue of MMR will be less sensationalist and more evidence-based.

EDMs are listed here, where you can search for them by number, description or topic, and see which ones have been signed (i.e. supported) by which MPs. In the 2008-09 session of Parliament, just over one thousand have so far been published and it is possible to get an idea of the breadth of an MP's interests (or belief in the value of EDMs) by seeing which ones, and how many, he or she has supported. The figures show a wide variation: John McDonnell (Lab, Hayes and Harrington), managed 672, while Gerry Adams (Sinn Fein, Belfast West) and several others signed none at all.

My own MP signed a creditable 333. This includes the one about the MMR vaccine; I had sent him an email urging him to support it but he would probably have done so anyway.

You can find out a great deal more about what your MP thinks and does by looking here. In this way I discovered that my own MP has:

Voted against a transparent Parliament.
Voted strongly for introducing a smoking ban.
Voted strongly for introducing ID cards.
Voted very strongly for introducing foundation hospitals.
Voted strongly for introducing student top-up fees.
Voted very strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism laws.
Voted moderately for the Iraq war.
Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war.
Voted very strongly against replacing Trident.
Voted very strongly for the hunting ban.
Voted very strongly for equal gay rights.
Voted moderately for laws to stop climate change.
...and has occasionally rebelled against his party line.

For me, he seems to have been on the side of the angels with slightly more than half of these issues; this is more than any other future candidates in my constituency are likely to be so if he stands at the next election I suppose I'll give him my vote.


Amanda said...

How eaxtly does one vote "strongly" or "moderately"? One votes for or against, surely?

Tony said...

It's explained here.