Is a signature too much to ask to help save the elephants?
Early Day Motions (EDMs) are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons. However, very few are actually debated. EDMs allow MPs to draw attention to an event or cause. MPs register their support by signing individual motions.
Right now, 117 Members of Parliament from 9 Parties (and 2 Independents) have signed EDM 773 which says:
That this House notes, with alarm, that an estimated 40,000 African elephants are killed each year, one every 15 minutes, out of a total population of 400,000; recognises that the profits from the illegal wildlife trade pose an increasing threat to security by funding criminal gangs and terrorism, including al-Shabab, the Somali cell of al-Qaeda; welcomes the Government’s active role as a Party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and its support for a total ban on ivory sales; further welcomes the training and support provided by the British Army for the Kenya Wildlife Service anti-poaching rangers; further welcomes the Foreign Secretary’s initiative to host a high-level conference on illegal wildlife trade in February 2014; encourages the Government in its efforts to secure a commitment from the international community to work together to reduce demand for wildlife products, to enforce the law, and to provide sustainable alternative livelihoods; and calls on the Government to encourage international support for the protection of elephants which are now universally acknowledged as intelligent, social, sentient beings and to use the overseas aid budget to make a substantial and strategically important contribution to the African Elephant Action Plan adopted in 2010 by all 38 African Elephant Range States in order to enable African countries to take the necessary steps to protect their elephants from poachers and to stop the illegal trafficking of ivory.
So why have only 117 MPs – out of 650 – agreed to sign? Well some can’t sign.
Ministers and government whips, Parliamentary Private Secretaries and the Speaker and his deputies do not normally sign EDMs. That’s more than 100.
To be clear, Ministers and whips really do not sign EDMs. However, the 2005 Ministerial Code stated that Parliamentary Private Secretaries “must not associate themselves with particular groups advocating special policies”, and they do not normally sign EDMs (so in theory, they can). Neither the Speaker nor Deputy Speakers will sign EDMs.
But even if all the above decline to sign there are hundreds who can and who have decided not to.
Some claim that EDMs are a waste of public money. Well maybe, in the past, EDMs have been used to highlight too many frivolous issues. However, they are a legitimate way for MPs to reflect issues of concern to their constituents and society as a whole, nationally and internationally.
I would say that signing an EDM should not be a matter of policy but a matter of conscience. It makes sense if it raises an important matter. Then, whether an MP signs it or not, should be a matter of personal choice and should be done on the merits of the Motion.
EDM 773 is clearly a Motion that deserves the widest possible Parliamentary support. It calls for action to help protect elephants, their habitat, the communities that live alongside them and the rangers who risk their lives to protect them. It also recognises the wider threat that illegal ivory trade represents as a source of funding for militant groups that are bent on causing local, national, regional and international instability and it identifies the substantial budget of the Department for International Development (DFID) as a source of the modest funding needed to make things happen.
On that basis I hope that ALL MPs that can sign EDM 773 will consider their position, review the Motion on its merits and decide to offer their support in this small but important way as we prepare for the High Level Meeting on Illegal Wildlife Trade which the UK Government is hosting on the 13th February 2014.
Not to be willing to consider supporting the EDM would be another indication, in my view, of the growing disconnect between the people and some of our politicians; a disconnect that does a disservice to democracy – not to mention undermining the survival of one of the world’s most iconic and threatened species.
So, to all MPs who can sign EDMs, please do sign EDM 773. If we can secure the backing of just 48 more MPs, this would make EDM 773 the most heavily supported Motion in this session of Parliament. C’mon! We have a month to make it happen!
For details of how to contact your MP click on this link
PS. Find out the latest on poaching and the ivory trade at www.bloodyivory.org