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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 4:15 pm on 14th February 1985.

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Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North 4:15 pm, 14th February 1985

I am pleased that new clause 29 has been selected for debate, but the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) asked me a question which I was trying to answer. If I may say so, it is related to the reasons why I believe that a deposit, and not simply a collection of signatures, is necessary. I think that I have answered the hon. Gentleman. We shall see later whether he has been persuaded by what I have said.

Referring again to the candidates of race hatred, to save their deposit is a sign for them, though not in our eyes or in the view of the community, that they have achieved electoral credibility. They can say that they have saved their deposits in so many constituencies. This is why I make the same point to the Minister as I made yesterday during the Home Secretary's speech.

I favour a more modest increase in the deposit. I accept that there should be some increase. It might have been increased to £250 or £300, with the retention of a threshold of 12·5 per cent. of the total votes cast, as now, or a threshold of 10 per cent. I should have thought that that would achieve a wider consensus in Committee than what is proposed. That is why I argued that point of view in the appropriate place, but at the end of the day one has to accept the position outlined by the Home Secretary yesterday.

I do not want to exaggerate the danger of the National Front. It would be wrong to do so. Fortunately, our society is sufficiently mature not to support candidates who clearly stand for election, in the same way as the Mosley movement stood in elections before the second world war, to stir up as much racial trouble, strife and hatred as they can although they try, usually unsuccessfully, to keep within the law. By and large the latter-day movement, like the pre-war movement, has hardly got off the ground.

Although I do not have the figures for the last election, in the 1979 contest the National Front obtained more than 5 per cent. of the votes though, fortunately, only in five constituencies. The very fact that it was able to get that amount of electoral support, limited and modest as it was, gives rise to anxiety among people like me who believe that a 5 per cent. threshold is too low. I know that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Parris) does not agree with me because, if I may say so, he is a kind of fanatic for the collection of signatures as a substitute for a deposit. Clearly I shall not carry him with me. There is a divide in the Committee, and why not?