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Clause 27 — Changes to existing limits

Part of Access to Mental Health Services – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 10th September 2013.

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Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons 5:30 pm, 10th September 2013

My hon. Friend makes an important point that I will come to in due course.

This Bill puts the cart before the horse. Our contention is that this is the wrong way to tackle the very serious issues at stake and that what we actually need is an approach that focuses, first, on taking the big money out of politics and then places changes to third sector funding in the context of this much more fundamental and necessary reform of election funding. Let us be clear: that is the right way to tackle the issue because, to put it quite simply, the big money is not in third party spending. Political parties nationally—as my hon. Friend Andrew Gwynne has said—spent £31 million in the 2010 election, compared with just £3 million by third party campaigners. The biggest third party spender spent just 4% of the £17 million spent by the Conservative party.

While the Government claim that this is an attempt to take the big money out of politics, they do not even mention the real source of the problem: the amounts spent on election campaigning by political parties. If the Government are serious about taking the big money out of politics, they would be looking at a reduction in the overall expenditure cap for political parties during election years. If the Conservative party, in particular, is serious about taking the big money out of politics, it will withdraw this mess of a Bill and commit to meaningful reform. This is a bad, and badly drafted, Bill and it is very unlikely that, however much it is amended, it will stand up to serious scrutiny as a fair and workable piece of legislation. It is a Bill found wanting, partly because of the lack of rigorous consultation and partly because of the lack of pre-legislative scrutiny, as the Chair of the Select Committee pointed out.