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01 February 2012 2:32 PM

Clearing up Parliament's graffiti

Are the days of Early Day Motions in Parliament limited?

On Monday MPs will debate whether to reform or abolish them following a long-running campaign by Tory MP Graham Evans - though there will be no decision taken.

He argues the time has come for serious change to EDMs, which MPs can put forward on virtually any topic but which almost never come up for debate or change the law. They cost around £290 each, or £1 million a year.

Evans says they have become a campaign tool for outside groups, often drafted by public affairs professionals, leading to clogged up postbags to little effect but at great cost.

Other MPs, led by Julian Lewis, argue they are a rare way to get lots of MPs speaking out on one topic and to get support for worthwhile causes.

Now Graham Allen, Labour chair of the political and constitutional reform committee, has put forward a middle way between scrapping them completely or keeping the status quo.

He wants EDMs to be renamed MPDs - MPs' Debates - and signed anonymously by backbench MPs only. At the end of every week the MPD with the most signatures would be granted a debate for the following week.

Allen has written to colleagues to garner support for his idea. And he said: “The EDM is devalued currency. It’s time to tear down this wall of political graffiti and rebuild a practical way for MPs to raise topical issues and hold government to account.”

Many will wish him well, though the glacial pace of change in Westminster suggests it could be a while before the graffiti is cleaned up.

Craig Woodhouse
Follow me on Twitter @craigawoodhouse

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