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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 4:30 pm on 14th February 1985.

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Photo of Mr Matthew Parris Mr Matthew Parris , West Derbyshire 4:30 pm, 14th February 1985

I envisage that the fee would be set by order. Even if one were to assume that orders passed through the House without receiving the parliamentary attention they deserve, it would, as my hon. Friend says, be within the power of any Government to make it impossible for a small political party to register as a political party. That would not make it impossible to field candidates by payment of the ordinary deposit. I am not suggesting that we abolish the £500 deposit. That will stay within the power of any candidate. That will be an additional benefit to a registered political party. So long as the matter is treated in good faith by the Government of the day, it will be a helpful benefit.

There has been argument about whether the threshold should be 5 per cent., 7·5 per cent., 10 per cent., 12·5 per cent. or whatever. Five per cent. is better than 10 per cent. Nevertheless, any party must start from zero. A party is likely to start with a level of public support which would not give it even 5 per cent. of the votes cast in a general election across the constituencies in which it fields candidates. Therefore, it does not particularly matter whether the party is blighted at 2, 5, 7 or 10 per cent. Any threshold which makes it impossible for a small party which is just starting up to field a credible number of candidates in a general election is a serious disincentive to small parties. Our first-past-the-post system is already a serious disincentive to small parties and we need not add to it through our system of deposits.