EDMWatch #6 Pubs, badgers and elephants – but what about people?

We take  an occasional look at the Early Day Motions tabled by MPs. These are basically House of Commons petition and are used to raise awareness of an issue. One of the biggest elements of an MP’s postbag or inbox is a pile of requests from supporters of a particular organisation or charity to sign a particular EDM. As a rule, ministers don’t sign EDMs.

Most popular

Winning for this session so far is our own Greg Mulholland’s EDM 57, on getting pub tenants a fair deal from breweries, signed by 166 MPs.

Now this is where I get annoyed, because although both EDM 299 on the badger cull and EDM 773 on the ivory trade are very important, both have more signatures than EDM 172 on tackling hate crime against those with autism. This one has a fair few Liberal Democrat signatories but not at, at time of writing, from Tim Farron who I know is interested in these issues.

Interestingly, the Liberal Democrat MPs who rebelled most about welfare reform have signed up to EDM 620 on withdrawal of benefit during reconsiderations and appeals on benefit claims and the Catch 22 that creates for people. A few more, like Andrew Stunell and John Thurso have also added their names.

Other popular EDMs include a tribute to Seamus Heaney and a commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the Bow Match Strike by women who worked at Bryant and May’s match factory.

Liberal Democrat highlights

Top of the list today is Simon Hughes’ motion calling on the government to allow gender neutral passports. This is not a new issue for him. He and Lynne Featherstone were amongst the signatories to a petition on this issue earlier this year. His EDM 889 sets out the case in Simon’s usual not very concise style:

That this House recognises the issues faced by those in the UK who identify themselves as non-gender, bi-gender or intersex; believes that many of those who are non-gendered or bi-gendered feel compromised and diminished as a result of inappropriate gender references on their personal identity information; acknowledges that all passports issued by HM Passport Office are currently gender-specific and it is therefore not possible to obtain a passport that contains no reference to gendered identity; understands that, alongside F (Female) and M (Male), the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Document 9303 already contains X (unspecified) as a permitted character for three permitted characters under the mandatory sex element for machine-readable travel documents; notes that this week Germany introduced a policy enabling citizens to obtain a non-gender specific X passport, that a similar policy is already in operation in Australia and New Zealand and that India, Nepal and Pakistan also recognise the legitimacy of X as a preferred option when M and F are not appropriate; further believes that allowing this possibility in the UK would go a long way to amend this discriminatory policy which denies non-gendered and bi-gendered people a legitimate identity; and therefore urges the Government and HM Passport Office to make non-gender-specific X passports available to those UK passport holders who do not identify with a particular gender.

There’s also Tim Farron’s EDM 869 calling for a Digital Bill of Rights.

That this House notes the recent open statement signed by Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Twitter and AOL calling for reform of government surveillance; welcomes their calls for reform to restore the public’s trust in the internet; supports the five principles they identify about limiting governments’ authority to collect users’ information, oversight and accountability, transparency about government demands, respecting the free flow of information, and avoiding conflicts among governments; agrees that they form a sensible basis for reform of digital rights; and calls on the Government to support their statement and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight.

Ones to watch

An interesting one from Labour’s Katy Clark, reminding us of the horrible gender stereotyping of toys, asking retailers to do away with gender specific advertising.

Silly motion of the week

Keith Vaz, really, do we have to have a parliamentary motion lauding the X Factor winner Sam Bailey? She’s very good, I know, but is it really worth an EDM? However, it’s spared being the daftest of the week by this ridiculous assertion that Christians face discrimination in the workplace, feeding the persecution narrative so beloved of the Daily Mail.

I know you don’t really need more reason to procrastinate on the internet, but you can see the whole list here. What are your favourites?


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Parliament.


  • Apart from allowing MPs to trumpet their vanity “concerns”, given EDM have no bearing at all on legislation, in an age of repetitions etc, is their any POINT at all in EDM? And how much does it cost ?

  • Andrew Colman 19th Dec '13 - 10:41am

    Dislike the title of this article as it implies there is a conflict between looking after our environment and looking after people.

    This implication is false. Firstly people who are cruel to animals then to be cruel to people as well and (b) We Humans depend on our environment (including diverse wildlife) for our well being, prosperity and survival.

    For this reason I am very glad that Badgers and Ivory are top of the EDM list. The badger call is a disgrace and should have been vetoed by the Lib Dems at birth.. The Ivory trade is a case of ancient superstition (eg oriental medicine) wiping out a great and wonderful asset of Africa and S Asia. Ivory smugglers are as bad as drug smuglers (at leat addicts had a choice, elephents did not) hand should receive similar punishments.

  • Andrew Colman 19th Dec '13 - 11:07am

    If anyone wants to do smoothing small to help save badgers, they can sign the petition at

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