Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

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.

Alert me about debates like this

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

I see that the hon. Gentleman will not do so, as he is shaking his head.

I hope that on Report the Home Secretary will consider the possibility of increasing the threshold from the proposed 5 per cent. to 7·5 per cent. That would serve the democratic process better. I stress that I speak for myself on those issues.

It would be difficult to change the threshold and deposit on a later occasion. We all know that they were established way back in 1918. If there were a change in the electoral climate, which I do not expect for one moment, or if there were a danger, as we have seen in France, of a Fascist revival, it would be difficult to change the law, because the people to whom I have been referring would say that the law was being changed purely and simply because of them. These matters should be considered in a proper way, bearing in mind that we are not likely to deal again with the issue of the deposit or threshold for a long time to come. Those are the reasons why amendment No. 85 should be given sympathetic consideration.

I agree with those who argue that standing for Parliament is first and foremost a serious business. There are advantages to be gained, as was stated last night. Candidates receive about £800 worth of free postage, and there is publicity. Other advantages are given—in my view rightly so—to a candidate. That is why I feel that it is right and proper that, unlike in local elections where those facilities are not given, there should be a deposit. If we cannot retain the present deposit and threshold, we should try to reach a consensus. Presumably we have done so on the basis of what the Home Secretary said last night.

Before we come to a final conclusion on Report and Third Reading, if I may say so with due modesty, we should bear in mind some of the points that I have raised. At the end of the day we are concerned with preserving our democratic system, with all its faults— and no doubt there are many. Living in any dictatorship, Left or Right —[Interruption.]—though my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and I may disagree about whether it is really Left—is a nightmare. We have the virtue of living in a democracy, and long may it remain so. Part of our job is to try to ensure that the manner in which we go about our business, laying down rules and regulations for standing at elections and so on, is such that we can say that we, as a House of Commons, are making our own contribution to ensuring that our democratic system survives and is in safe hands, and does not give an opportunity to those whose main motive is—