Early day motion

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An Early Day Motion (EDM), in the Westminster system, is a motion, expressed as a single sentence,[1] tabled by Members of Parliament for debate "on an early day" (namely an unspecific date in the future). Controversial EDMs won't be signed by Government Ministers, PPS or the Speaker of the House of Commons and very few are debated on the floor of the Chamber of the House. EDMs remain open for signature for the duration of the parliamentary session.

EDMs can be tabled on matters ranging from trivial, even funny, topics to those of epoch-making importance. The censure motion by which the Labour Government of James Callaghan was ejected had its origin in an early day motion (no. 351 of 1978–79), put down on March 22, 1979, by Margaret Thatcher.

MPs may ensure the text of an EDM is printed in Hansard by mentioning it by number in questions to the Leader of the House of Commons after the Business Statement (normally on a Thursday when the house is in session).

Examples of trivial issues covered include Pigeon Bombs: an EDM was tabled in the 2003–04 session of the UK Parliament by Tony Banks, which concerns itself with a disclosure by MI5 that it had proposed using pigeons as flying bombs during World War II. The motion condemned the proposal, describing humans as "obscene, perverted, cruel, uncivilised and lethal", and proposed that the House "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". It was only signed by two other MPs (Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell).[2]

EDMs tabled on serious topics include those tabled demanding the release of Nelson Mandela when he was incarcerated in apartheid South Africa, and one calling for a consultation on the fingerprinting of children in schools without parental permission.[3] Shortly after the 2005 general election, 412 of the 646 MPs signed EDM 178 calling for a Climate Change Bill;[4] only three other early day motions had ever been signed by more than 400 MPs.[5]

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