EDMs, one sided extradition and hypocrisy

The Daily Mail has gone to town today on the 74 Labour MPs who signed Early Day Motions criticising the one sided Extradition arrangements with the US that the government signed up to, and demanding UK justice for Mr McKinnon. Their failure to vote for the Opposition Day motion which repeated their demands from the EDMs was not their finest hour.

I have been a consistent opponent of the lop sided extradition the government forced upon us, and am not surprised to see the government’s weakness on this issue with the US now causing harm. Today I want to say a little more about those EDMs.

EDMs are Parliamentary graffitti. They fall into three broad cartegories. There are the harmless ones invented by MPs to launch a local press release. These might congratulate a soccer team on winning a competition or praise a UK sports star for performing well.

There are the few designed by a group of MPs for a political purpose, as part of a much wider campaign to change the government’s mind or to change their party’s stance on something. The MPs designing them know they can’t work on their own, and are but the more visible part of what they are doing. They will, however, normally stick by their public declaration.

There are then many drawn up by lobby groups outside the House, tabled by an MP, and circulated to the members or contacts of the lobby group. People then send in an email, letter of postcard drafted by the lobby group urging MPs to sign the lobby group’s motion.

This latter industry implies that EDMs matter. The person sending in the card or email is invited to believe that if enough MPs sign the EDM the matter will be fixed. As yesterday shows, that is complete nonsense. Yesterday 74 Labour MPs showed they did not mean their signatures on EDMs. If they had voted for the Oppositon version of the EDM, then something could have changed. The EDMs just sit on the Order paper collecting some names and much dust.They have no impact whatsoever, and are never debated.

My advice to constituents is not to be taken in by the EDM mongers. EDMs don’t work. If you want to change a Minister’s mind you need to put something to the Minister that he or she has to respond to. Better still, you need the Opposition to table a motion, and then need to persuade more Labour MPs to see the need to vote against their government. But that of course, is altogether more difficult.


  1. Mike Stallard
    July 16, 2009

    And who (I regret) is the major EDM merchant? Oh dear – it’s us, the Catholics!
    Time and time again, I have been to Church and been given a postcard which I always take, dutifully sign, and send to patient Mr Moss MP. You must know the kind of thing which we Catholics like to support/attack by now. Has there been any progress?
    As an elector, I am seriously worried about our national attitude, actually. We seem to be demanding as much as we can out of the government in terms of support, money and other goodies. Consequently, we give the Labour Party (which understands us better than we think) thumping great majorities.
    It is our attitude which is, quite literally, bankrupting the country. We need to change – fast.

    PS the one sided extradition treaty with the US and the double sided extradition arrangements within the EU are quite simply an outrage.

  2. alan jutson
    July 16, 2009

    Once again no joined up thinking by many Mp’s

    Many want to appear to be supporting, rather than really believe in what they say and do.

    Hence the reason why Whips have so much control over voting.
    Some MP’s are happy just to follow (cardboard cut outs) rather than think independently for themselves and for their constituants.

  3. Brian Tomkinson
    July 16, 2009

    This reveals once again the cynical attitude of Labour MPs to the electorate. They sign an EDM to make themselves look good to their constituents but when the chips are down and the whips get to work they show their true colours which can be stated simply as “my party right or wrong”.

  4. Denis Cooper
    July 16, 2009

    There were several years during which the arrangements were blatantly lop-sided, because on our side Parliament had authorised the agreed changes through the Extradition Act 2003, while the US Senate had not even approved the new treaty.

    However I read that both sides ratified the treaty in April 2007:


    and I also read there that the previous arrangements were considered lop-sided in the opposite direction:

    “The treaty, and the Extradition Act 2003, have also redressed the unequal balance that existed under the terms of the 1972 Treaty in which the UK required more from the US than they asked of the UK. The US was required to demonstrate a prima facie evidential case in support of extradition requests made to the UK, whereas the UK merely had to demonstrate ‘probable cause’.

    The ‘probable cause’ test is broadly comparable to the requirement for ‘information which would justify the issue of a warrant for the arrest of a person’ that the UK will now require of the US.”

    In fact I don’t think that change would affect this case, as the accused person openly admits that he committed some of the alleged offences.

    However it would certainly have affected the Lotfi Raissi case – under the new fast-track system he would have been flown off the Guantanamo in short order, without the US authorities being required to produce any prima facie evidence of his guilt in a British court:


    “He spent four-and-a-half months at the high security Belmarsh prison in south-east London before being freed on bail by a district judge who ruled there was “no evidence” to suggest he was linked to terrorism. The US extradition request was formally dropped in April 2002.”

    The same Extradition Act 2003 also authorised fast-track extradition to other EU countries under the EU Arrest Warrant, once again without any need for the foreign authorities to produce prima facie evidence of guilt in a British court.

    Liberty is now campaigning against summary extradition to any foreign jurisdiction:


    while the last I heard the German constitutional court was still refusing to allow the EU Arrest Warrant to apply to Germany:


    “European Arrest Warrant Act void”

    “According to the Court, the Act encroaches upon the freedom from extradition (Article 16.2 of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz – GG)) in a disproportionate manner … “

  5. Bill
    July 16, 2009

    I was of the view that the 2003 Extradition Act was brought in to simplify and speed up the extradition process, between the UK and the USA
    The main purpose behind the act being to deal with international terrorism.

    Mr McKinnon’s actions seem to be far removed from any terrorist motives and it seems extremely harsh to deport him to the USA where he could receive a heavy sentence.

    Maybe it’s fortunate that it was Mr McKinnon, with it seems benign motives, broke into secure defence systems.

    It will have given the US authorities the chance to review their systems.

    I can’t think of a better recent example of the risks of giving the state more and more power.

    Labour has always made the case that they looked out for the poor and vulnerable in society.
    I’m appalled and surprised that so few Labour MP’s voted with the opposition.

  6. Jim
    July 16, 2009

    Yes it seems a classic case of being able to use the defendant to try to secure the system against real threats. McKinnon is clearly a bright spark who should not be put behind bars in the conventional way. Rather like the US Gov are doing in the banking parallel situation with Bernanke, Geithner et al. except I’m less sure they’re actually that bright….

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