The procedure for early-day motions is a matter for the House. Despite their variable quality, the opportunity provided by EDMs to raise any issue in the House is valued by many hon. Members. I understand that the House authorities are considering measures to reduce the associated costs.
I thank the Minister for his response. I and many colleagues are increasingly concerned that the EDM procedure is being abused by outside interests and lobbyists, at considerable cost to the taxpayer and to Members’ time. What steps is he taking to ensure that that does not continue?
I know that a number of hon. Members share the hon. Gentleman’s view. Ironically, perhaps, the concerns about early-day motions are expressed in early-day motion 432, which sets out a similar view to his. The problem is that many of our constituents are led to believe by campaigning organisations that EDMs have an efficacy well beyond what we in the House know to be the case. The matter will have to be considered by the House authorities and Committees, but he makes an important point.
Early-day motions are an important way for the House, and particularly Back Benchers, to show interest, concern and dedication to a particular cause. I urge the hon. Gentleman not to make it more difficult for Members to sign early-day motions—I know that there are difficulties deciding which to sign and which not to sign—but to make it easier. Currently, we can table a question online, but we cannot add our name to an early-day motion online. Surely that facility could be introduced.
In the past financial year, a total of 2,531 EDMs were tabled, with 120,158 names added. Clearly, the obstacles are not insuperable, but the hon. Gentleman raises an important point, which he has raised with me previously and which I have taken up with the House authorities. I hope that we will soon make progress on the matter.
Had it not been for the availability of the EDM procedure, I would not have been able quickly to gather 249 signatures for an EDM that helped in considerable part to change the law so that the mad decision of three judges that our home addresses should be revealed to anyone who asked for them could be stultified and reversed. May I suggest gently to my hon. Friends and other hon. Members that if they are so shy about saying no when asked to sign an EDM, they have the option of simply informing the Table Office that they do not sign any EDMs, and informing their constituents of the same? Those of us who want to make use of the procedure can then continue to do so.