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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

It is said that the parliamentary deposit was introduced in 1918 as a result of a deal cobbled up between the Whigs and the Tories to prevent the emerging Labour party from emerging any further. I believe that the amount was a working man's wage in a year. If that was so, the deal failed. It failed because the Labour party had the organised trade union movement to draw on, not only for parliamentary deposits but for the 10 or 12·5 per cent. of votes that it needed in every constituency.

A small party can start up despite a crippling parliamentary deposit if it starts up on the back of an existing national institution or organisation such as the trade union movement, or, perhaps, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. It is much more difficult for a party such as the Ecology party, or, indeed, for the Liberal party at one time. I imagine that that party would have been crippled by the proposals had they been in force between the 1950s and the early 1970s.

My scheme may not be perfect—I am sure that it is not—but I want to see a system that does not stifle small political parties at birth. We are strong enough to tolerate the existence of such parties and to stand against them in general elections. We should not rule them out at the first post.