Memorandum from Association of Professional
Political Consultants (P 66 (Session 2005-06))
1. The Management Committee of the Association
of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) is pleased to be
able to contribute to the inquiry by the Procedure Committee into
Early Day Motions (EDMs). The campaigns and activities of many
of our clients are the subject of EDMs, and we welcome the opportunity
to put on record our comments about their current and future use.
2. As with any membership organisation,
it is difficult to encapsulate in a single document the diverse
views of all members. Thus we would stress that this paper has
been prepared on behalf of the Management Committee of the APPC,
and does not necessarily represent the views of all APPC members.
3. The APPC is the representative and regulatory
body for UK political consultants and public affairs professionals.
The APPC aims to:
ensure transparency and openness
through a register of political consultants;
enforce high standards by requiring
members to adhere to a code of conduct; and
promote understanding amongst politicians,
the media and others about political consultants and the public
affairs sector, and the contribution made by political consultants
to a properly functioning democracy.
4. The APPC has 32 member companies, representing
around 80% of the UK political consultancy sector (by turnover).
It is worth saying that the APPC does not regulate in-house communications
teams who also engage in lobbying and other public affairs activity.
5. Clients of APPC member companies range
widely, from private companies, to trade and professional bodies,
trades unions, public sector organisations, and charities and
campaigning groups. It is particularly the case that the latter
group may be the inspiration for EDMs, and for that reason the
APPC is well-placed to comment on the Procedure Committee's inquiry.
6. Early Day Motions are often described
as "Parliamentary graffiti", and their value questioned.
It is our belief that this severely underplays the utility of
EDMs in the wider Parliamentary and political process.
7. EDMs allow MPs to express their opinion
about a subject in a straightforward and accessible way. It allows
them to communicate their view to other MPs, Ministers and others.
It helps MPs to identify other Members with the same view, and
so allows coalitions of support for an issue to be built.
8. Similarly, for those outside Parliament
EDMs are a reference point, identifying MPs who support (or oppose)
a particular policy objective. EDMs can be cited in correspondence,
for example with Ministers, as demonstrating a level of support
for an issue in Parliament. EDMs also provide an "outcome"at
the end of a meeting to brief an MP about a particular issue it
may be useful to suggest that they show their support by signing
an existing EDM.
9. Thus the APPC believes that any restriction
on current arrangements for tabling EDMs would limit the ability
of organisations (perhaps primarily charities, NGOs and other
"non-commercial" groups) to make use of this valuable
campaigning tool. Moreover, there is no obvious other mechanism
which might be used by such groups to draw the attention of Parliament
and Government to an issue.
10. Other than Prayers against delegated
legislation, very few EDMs are ever debated. The principal (though
infrequently used) mechanism for allowing debate is if a Motion
is taken up by the Opposition for an Opposition Day debate. Our
view is that there is a case for a separate procedure for ensuring
that a proportion (however small) of EDMs should be debated by
the House, or perhaps more likely in Westminster Hall.
11. Deciding which of the many EDMs would
be debated would not be straightforward. However, we note that
choices are made by the Liaison Committee between the reports
of Select Committees in deciding on the subjects of certain debates,
and accordingly we propose that the Liaison Committeeor
its Chairmanor a similar body take on a similar role in
the case of EDMs.
12. We recognise that underpinning the Committee's
inquiry may be a concern about the number of EDMs now being tabled
in a Session. It is a glib point, but the number reflects the
success and attractiveness of the procedure. We repeat our view
that the correct response to this success should not be somehow
to constrain the numbers tabled.
13. We do, though, recognise that the costs
of printing and re-printing every EDM are substantial, and should
be reduced. For most users of Parliamentary papers outside
Parliament, electronic versions of the papers are entirely acceptable.
The EDM database is a well-developed, and very useful resource.
14. However, for users within Parliament
the printed Order Paper still appears to be a much-referred to
document. In relation to EDMs we are aware that many MPs (or their
offices) check the new EDMs on a daily basis. On behalf of our
clients we would obviously not favour changes which would mean
that Motions did not gain the attention of MPs in the way that
they do at Present.
15. Therefore we propose that:
All new EDMs are printed on
the day after they are tabled (as at present).
New amendments to EDMs are printed
(together with the text of the EDM).
EDMs are no longer re-printed:
When additional names are added
to Motions or amendments.
Once a week (as at present).
16. We believe that this would substantially
reduce the amount of printing associated with EDMs, and thus significantly
lower costs to the taxpayer. Provided that the electronic publication
of EDMs is continued we do not believe that this change would
undermine the usefulness of the EDM procedure as a whole.
17. The APPC is not best placed to judge
whether or not it would be appropriate, useful or technically
possible for Members to table EDMs electronically. Our only observation
is that given the changes made to tabling questions, and given
trends in the use of technology, it may well be that electronic
tabling is inevitable.
18. We hope that this evidence is of interest
and use to the Committee in its inquiry. If the APPC can provide
any further evidence or information we would be very happy to