Election Deposits

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st March 1983.

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Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Kingston upon Thames Surbiton 12:00 am, 31st March 1983

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received about the present level of deposit required for parliamentary candidates.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

In the past six months I have received representations in favour of increasing the level of the deposit from four hon. Gentlemen; from a Conservative party constituency association and from one member of the public. I have received representations against increasing the deposit from two hon. Members, from the general secretary of Plaid Cymru and from three members of the public who have previously stood as independent candidates.

Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Kingston upon Thames Surbiton

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the £150 deposit was introduced as long ago as 1918 to discourage frivolous candidatures and that after Bermondsey, with 16 candidates, and Darlington, with eight, clearly it is no longer any sort of deterrent? Will my right hon. Friend consider raising the deposit to, say, £2,000, which today is roughly the equivalent of what £150 was in 1918?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

As my hon. Friend knows, the Select Committee on Home Affairs, as part of its inquiry this Session into the Representation of the People Acts, is considering the question of the deposit. We should wait to see what it says. Many people think that the deposit is unsatisfactory at its present level but that changes should, as they have in the past, be made on the basis of all-party agreement in the House. I think that that is important.

Photo of Mr Greville Janner Mr Greville Janner , Leicester West

Does the Home Secretary accept that the present level of deposit creates a travesty of democracy when people stand without any deterrent, using completely free mailing to all constituents, sometimes for their own personal publicity purposes and sometimes to promote the wishes of thoroughly racist and unpleasant little organisations?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

Without confirming everything that the hon. and learned Gentleman says, I think that many hon. Members believe that the deposit at its present level encourages undesirable candidates. If that is the view of the Select Committee and of the House, and if there is all-party agreement, I should strongly favour putting it up.

Photo of Mr Anthony Grant Mr Anthony Grant , Harrow Central

Whatever is done, will my right hon. Friend ensure that the public are not entirely deprived of the pleasure of amiable nut cases enlivening what is otherwise a somewhat drab event and which is, after all, in accordance with the splendid traditions of British eccentricity?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I do not think that there is much danger of stopping that.

Photo of Mr Tom McNally Mr Tom McNally , Stockport South

Considering the tenor of the Home Secretary's earlier remarks, does he agree that to try to introduce any legislation on the matter so late in this Parliament would be misconstrued and should instead be left to an early decision for the next Parliament, because then it would have no political overtones?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I do not think that a decision that consistently has been taken with all-party agreement would be subject to misunderstanding. We should wait to see what the Select Committee says in its report.