I thought it might be a good idea to introduce a new feature for the start of the shiny new parliamentary session - a regular 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.
You would think, wouldn't you, that MPs could just sign them with a click of the mouse, but as far as I know, they actually have to print it out, physically sign it and take it to the Table Office. You wouldn't necessarily expect our Parliament to get all 21st century about anything, but this could be an easy way of saving work.
Anyway, I intend to look at the most popular EDMs each week, those brought forward by Liberal Democrats and any others that catch my eye. MPs are pretty prolific with these things. The session isn't even a week old, and already 71 have been tabled, ranging from the worthy and uncontroversial to the hyperlocal to the ridiculous.
The race to be number 1 of the new session was won by Falkirk's independent MP, Eric Joyce with a series of motions on international development issues. This was number 1:
That this House commends the Government and opposition parties on their continued commitment to international development aid; recognises that in challenging economic times such expenditure must be continuously justified to the UK public; welcomes the change in emphasis towards enabling developing nations to grow their own economies and move away from reliance on aid; further recognises the crucial role of good relations with partner nations in the developing world; congratulates non-governmental organisations on their work to date; and urges UK investors to work with new prospects in the developing world.
This week the honour is shared between EDM 8, in support of Yorkhill Children's Charity (a Glasgow Children's hospital) and EDM 55 on childcare ratios by some Labour MPs. Nick Clegg was way ahead of them. They have 14 signatures each.
They are closely followed by a couple of motions on religious liberty or the lack of it, in the Middle East, several on Diabetes, smoke detectors and, interestingly, EDM 43 on the fire service in England to be required by law to respond to serious flooding incidents. You would have thought that this was already in place, but apparently not.
The three on Sir Alex Ferguson, though, have failed to ignite MPs, attracting just 10 signatures between them. The biggest surprise was George Galloway describe him as the Greatest Living Scotsman. For someone of his monumental ego, that's humility!
Liberal Democrat highlights
Adrian Sanders has been busy. He's filed no fewer than 11 EDMs on subjects as diverse on the effect of sending reductions on seaside resorts, particularly welfare reform changes, to racehorse safety, applying minimum standards to all races in the UK. Actually, I'm wondering if he can do that - isn't animal welfare devolved to Scotland and Wales? He certainly seems to know that from his motion on a close season for hare shooting to protect nursing mothers! Oh, and he wants to impose extra darkness on Scotland, too. so excuse me while I frown in his direction.
John Leech's EDM 30 calls for a pardon for Alan Turing and EDM 33 calls for action on homophobic chanting at football grounds:
That this House welcomes the report from the Brighton and Hove Albion Supporters' Club (BHASC), along with the Gay Football Supporters' Network (GFSN), that details evidence and a log of the level of homophobic chanting at both home and away matches; recognises the extent of the problem when Brighton fans have been subjected to homophobic abuse by at least 72 per cent of opponents they have faced this season; agrees with the report that, although chants range from what would be considered to be mild to much more offensive, if these words relating to a person's sexuality were replaced with words relating to someone's race or skin colour, appropriate action would be taken; further recognises the good work both the BHASC and the GFSN have done in highlighting this problem; and calls for the clubs, the football authorities, the police and relevant authorities to work with them to eradicate this abuse.
He also wants to see 17 year olds given protections in police custody.
John Hemming welcomes a new practice direction on secret jailings for contempt of court, Bob Smith on the importance of the oil and gas industry and Malcolm Bruce congratulates the first deaf sailor to circumnavigate the globe. Mike Hancock has two - on travel for young people and animal experts.
Silly motion of the week
Let's face it, when you have a George Galloway, there is plenty of scope. Probably the daftest of his crop is the idea that tabloid newspapers should attract VAT:
That this House urges the Government to impose VAT on daily and Sunday tabloid newspapers which are principally in the entertainment industry rather than the news business; and believes that such a measure could bring in an estimated revenue of £3 billion a year to HM Treasury which could be used for house-building and infrastructural measures to stimulate the economy.
The idea that the government should tax expression and opinion that it doesn't like is not a healthy one.
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?