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Deposit by Candidates at Parliamentary Elections

Part of Orders of the Day — Representation of the People Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:03 pm on 14th February 1985.

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Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North 4:03 pm, 14th February 1985

The reasons for an election deposit were outlined by the Home Secretary yesterday. I cannot see any objection to a deposit, but, at the same time, I am not over-enthusiastic about such a large increase from £150 to £1,000. I take the point that the equivalent of the 1918 £150 would be in the region of £2,000; nevertheless, a jump from £150 to £1,000 in one go is unnecessary. I think that the point has been established.

It is important in these matters, which are not dealt with frequently in Committee, for obvious reasons, that we should try so far as possible to reach a consensus. The idea of the collection of a certain number of signatures has some support on the Government Benches, but I do not believe that that would be an adequate substitute for a deposit. It would be easy in some circumstances to collect signatures. As the Select Committee rightly said, the getting of signatures would be an easy step for certain candidates whose interest in the democratic system can be questioned. There are merchants of racial hatred involved in standing for election. Such people know full well how, in certain circumstances, at sensitive moments, it is possible to collect signatures by making the point that people do not have to vote for the person concerned, but that he merely wants to stand as a candidate and should not be denied that right.

I am not concerned about the frivolous candidate. I accept the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) on Second Reading that there is little evidence that frivolous candidates cause any harm to the democratic system. I do not mind whether Lord Sutch or Lord Double Sutch stands as a candidate. Indeed, it can be argued that such candidates bring a certain amount of gaiety to the hustings—more so at by-elections, for obvious reasons. Like my right hon. Friend, I see no argument that having a large number of these candidates, as there were in the Chesterfield by-election, does any harm to the democratic process. If harm is done, let us see the evidence. Those candidates do not cause me sleepless nights.

I am concerned about candidates whose motive in standing, particularly at by-elections, but sometimes at general elections, is race hatred. They do not bring any gaiety to the hustings or to any other feature of national life.