Early Day Motions

20.17Early Day Motions (EDMs) are motions tabled by Members, formally for debate ‘on an early day’, that is, on an unspecified future day. Although rarely debated in practice,1 they are subject to the principal rules indicated above for motions generally. EDMs are a mechanism which enable Members to express an opinion on or bring attention to a particular matter and which provide other Members with an opportunity to indicate their support for the sentiments expressed in the motion by adding their name to it, thus demonstrating the extent of parliamentary support for a particular cause or point of view. EDMs may also be used to pray against a statutory instrument, subject to the negative procedure. Such prayers tabled in the name of the Leader of the official Opposition usually act as a trigger for reference of an instrument for debate in a Delegated Legislation Committee (see paras 20.46, 31.15 ). Prayers against statutory instruments account for only a very small proportion of EDMs, of which many hundred can be tabled in a session.

Members may table an EDM in person in the Table Office or, provided that the motion bears the original signature of the tabling Member, it may be posted or delivered by a member of staff, to the Table Office. It may also be tabled via the digital tabling facility. Members may also table an EDM on behalf of another Member. It is open to any Member to table an EDM although in practice government ministers and parliamentary private secretaries do not do so. EDMs may only be tabled on a sitting day. EDMs remain open for other Members to sign until the end of the session, at which point they lapse.

As with motions intended for debate, an EDM should:

  • have a short, descriptive and neutrally-phrased title;
  • begin `That this House…’ and be formed of a single sentence which may be divided by semi-colons into clauses;
  • be no more than 250 words long (although there are instances where the limit on the number of words in a motion intended for debate has been relaxed, it is strictly applied to EDMs);2
  • conform to other rules of order for parliamentary proceedings, such as not referring to matters sub judice;
  • not use unparliamentary language or irony; and
  • not criticise other Members, Members of the House of Lords, judges or members of the royal family, except as the main subject of the motion.

Amendments to EDMs may be tabled. They must be within the scope of the original motion and must not seek to alter the motion in such a way as to make it longer than 250 words.

When tabling, adding their name, or submitting an amendment to an EDM, Members should declare any relevant interest, whether it has been declared in the Register of Members' Financial Interests or not.

The Member in charge of an EDM—that is, the first signatory, usually the tabling Member—may withdraw it, even if other Members have signed it. The Member in charge can also decide the first six signatories and the order in which they appear.

EDMs are published in the House business papers the day after they are tabled; they are republished on any subsequent days on which new names have been added until the end of the week after the week in which they were tabled. EDMs are also published on the Internet, appearing the day after they were tabled. Members may view and add names to EDMs on the day of their tabling and before they are published, in the Table Office. A database provides access to all EDMs tabled during a parliamentary session from 1989–90 onwards. It is updated nightly with new EDMs and new signatures added to existing EDMs.