What is an Early Day Motion?

Peter Smart, former Lakeman Fellow

Posted on the 13th October 2022

The Early Day Motion (EDM) is a little-known but quietly critical part of Westminster. Here’s a quick guide on some of the key features of an Early Day Motion:

An EDM is a motion submitted for debate to the House of Commons which does not have a fixed day for debate. Due to there not being a fixed time to debate EDMs, and there being so many EDMs submitted, very few are actually debated. For example, on the 27th of April 2022 eight EDMs were submitted, none of which were debated.

Instead, MPs will use EDMs to put across their view on a specific topic, other MPs can then also sign the EDM. Therefore, in practice EDMs signal an MP’s political position or support on a given matter. It is typically backbenchers who sign EDMs, government ministers do not tend to sign onto them, and Speakers are forbidden from doing so.

EDMs can be used to canvass support for a specific topic and to portray the level of support for said topic. As an example, an EDM in support of proportional representation was able to gather seventy signatures, showing the significant level of support for the motion in parliament.

EDMs can be on any subject from the implementation of a fairer voting system, to the maintenance of the Trident nuclear weapons system to the celebration of a noteworthy person’s birthday. In conclusion, while EDMs are rarely are legislated upon, they are useful in portraying the views of members of the House of Commons.

If you would like to see the full list of contemporary EDMs you can find them on parliament’s website.

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