What are Early day motions?

Early day motions (EDMs) are motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons for which no day has been fixed.

As there is no specific time allocated to EDMs very few are debated. However, many attract a great deal of public interest and media coverage. 

EDMs are used to put on record the views of individual MPs or to draw attention to specific events or campaigns. Topics covered by EDMs vary widely.

By attracting the signatures of other MPs, they can be used to demonstrate the level of parliamentary support for a particular cause or point of view.

In an average session only six or seven EDMs reach over two hundred signatures. Around seventy or eighty get over one hundred signatures. The majority will attract only one or two signatures.

There is no rule whereby the number of signatures affects the likelihood of an EDM being debated.

Ministers, Whips and Parliamentary Private Secretaries do not normally sign EDMs.  The Ministerial Code sets out the standards of conduct expected of ministers and how they discharge their duties, and includes guidance for Parliamentary Private Secretaries.

Neither the Speaker nor Deputy Speakers will sign EDMs as their role requires them to be politically impartial.

Internal party rules may also affect who can sign early day motions.

A 'prayer' is a particular type of EDM that is used, by convention, when MPs wish to object formally to a statutory instrument. If a motion 'praying' that an instrument 'be annulled' is tabled within 40 days of it being laid before Parliament, a debate may be arranged in a Delegated Legislation Committee or, more rarely, in the Chamber.

1,457 EDMs were tabled by MPs during the 2015-16 parliamentary session. Data on EDMs is given in the House of Commons Sessional Returns under 'notices of motions for an early day'.

Format

EDMs have a strict format. Each one has a short title,  for example, 'Internet Gambling', and a sentence no longer than 250 words detailing the motion.

Subject matter

EDMs must abide by certain rules about their subject matter. The main ones are:

  • EDMs may only criticise other MPs, Lords, judges or members of the royal family if that is the main subject of the motion
  • no reference should be made to matters before the courts
  • no unparliamentary language or irony should be used
  • titles must be purely descriptive

Amendments to EDMs

After an EDM has been tabled, other MPs can table amendments to it. Proposed amendments must not increase the motion’s length beyond 250 words and any names of MPs cannot also be signatories to the main motion.

Amendments are denoted by an 'A' after the main EDM number followed by a further number to indicate whether it is the first amendment, second and so on, for example EDM 201A1.

Withdrawal of EDMs

The MP in charge of an EDM may withdraw it even if other Members have signed it. Individual names may also be withdrawn.

EDMs dating back to the 1989-90 session of Parliament can be traced using the EDM database. It records the full title and text of EDMs and signatures of supporting MPs. EDMs published over the last ten sitting days are also available to browse.

For Early Day Motions prior to 1989-90, enquirers should contact the Parliamentary Archives.

Image: PA 

Related information

Most popular EDM

The record for most signatures on an EDM was set in the 2001-02 session. Malcolm Savidge's EDM on the need to avoid conflict between India and Pakistan attracted 502 signatures. Previously the record was 482 signatures for an EDM on service pensions tabled in 1964 by Sir Robert Cary.