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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 4:45 pm on 14th February 1985.

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Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office) 4:45 pm, 14th February 1985

I agree totally with my hon. Friend. If we make it possible for only large established parties with access to large amounts of money to contest elections, we shall suppress the growth of new ideas and trends. It is a fact that the National Front will have access to the amounts of money that will enable its members to stand for election. National Front candidates would, therefore, be able to afford to trade £1,000 for the £8,000 to which the Home Secretary drew attention as the benefits in terms of free postage. The small parties, including the Ecology party — there are many other small parties, some of which I like and some of which I dislike—simply do not have the necessary money. [Interruption.] I do not refer to the party of the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley). I never dare take a view on his party. I am referring to small groupings with wide interests. They simply do not have the resources, money or workers to use the free facilities. Therefore, it is an error to believe that this is a worthwhile bargain. The commercial people or those who want the publicity are ready to pay £500 or £1,000 for the greater publicity they will gain.

I do not agree with the Home Secretary who said: The deposit is founded in principle because the essence of election to Parliament is the contest between people who have serious aspirations to represent a constituency." — [Official Report, 13 February 1985; Vol. 73, c. 423.] The deposit was invented as a way of imposing upon all candidates in an election a share of the cost of the election. Previously candidates had been required directly to bear a share of the cost of election.

If we are to have an open democracy in which opinions which are unpopular or which have not yet found their time are allowed to be voiced before the electorate and in which people are allowed to seek votes from the electorate— however few votes they may receive—the deposit is not a proper means of validating a candidature. I hope that hon. Members who share that view will join us in the Division Lobby.