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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 Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley , Caernarfon 4:30 pm, 14th February 1985

Let me take the opportunity to welcome the Government's movement away from the original proposal and thank them for having responded to recommendations and represenations that were made to them earlier. I represent a party that has a vested interest. We have far too many lost deposits, and a deposit of £1,000 would have been a real deterrent to standing at elections.

It is in the interests of democracy in Wales—whether or not people in Wales agree with our policies—and indeed in other parts of the United Kingdom that those who have a coherent view to put forward in a democratic way, or any view for that matter, should have an opportunity to stand at elections. That should be part of the system.

I appreciate the dangers in some areas, where there has been racial tension arising from the activities of the National Front, but I prefer to have a system in which any party has to stand up and be counted and be shown to be as small as it is, rather than to masquerade under the pretence that it has a greater following by virtue of the fact that it is not standing for election and has an excuse for not so standing.

I want a system that allows the maximum participation, and the £500 and 5 per cent. is not unreasonable compared with the position in the past. Obviously, anyone who has to fork out a deposit for an election and is in danger of losing it would rather have no deposit at all.

I incline towards having a number of names attached to the nomination rather than a means test of any sort. I can see the danger that some people would nominate just to allow somebody to stand, without any intention of giving him support. It may be that the vote of the person who nominates should, by virtue of the fact that he has nominated, be deemed to be cast in that process. Alternatively, it may be that a smaller number than the 100 which has been mentioned should be required to be present at the registration office, so that it takes a bit of effort and is not just a matter of signing a piece of paper so that whoever is on the doorstep goes away as quickly as possible. That is one possibility if we are to consider having names instead of a financial disincentive.

There is the real problem, which has been mentioned by Liberal Members, of having large sums of money tied up. That problem will still arise from this formula. With 38 seats in Wales, at £500 a time, £19,000 would be tied up in deposits. That is a lot of money, and it is money that is needed to fight the election. Over the whole of the United Kingdom it would be that much more.

The position of the Ecology party should, I think, command a certain degree of sympathy and support within the Committee. That party has a valid viewpoint to put forward, and it should be facilitated in the democratic process. If the Ecology party were to put up candidates for 600-odd seats, that would cost £300,000, which would be totally unrealistic.

Having agreed so far with the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Parris), I wish to turn for a moment to the new clause and the amendment. I recoil from the idea of registration of political parties, because that has a flavour of going towards a corporate approach to our politics. I do not like the idea put forward in amendment No. 65 of a registration fee prescribed by the Secretary of State, because there would be a real danger of that being increased as time goes on. The idea appears to be a sort of discount system for those who intend to fight on a wide scale. A deposit of £20,000, for a party such as Plaid Cymru, which wishes to fight only 38 seats out of 600, is unrealistic. I do not see any merit in that, although I recognise the problem.

It would appear that, for some months, we have been moving towards a compromise. The proposals are not ideal as far as we are concerned. We would rather not see finance coming into it, but; to the extent that finance is going to come into it, we thank the Government for having put forward a compromise that goes some way towards meeting the problem.