HC Deb 26 November 1917 vol 99 cc1753-70

(1) A person shall not incur any expenses on account of holding public meetings or issuing advertisements circulars or publications, for the purpose of promoting or procuring the election of any candidate at a parliamentary election unless he is authorised in writing to do so by that candidate.

(2) If any person acts in contravention of this Section, he shall be guilty of a corrupt practice other than personation within the meaning of the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act, 1883, and the expression "corrupt practice" shall be construed accordingly:

Provided that the court before whom a person is convicted under this Section may, if they think it just in the special circumstances of the case, mitigate or entirely remit any incapacity imposed by Section 6 of the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act, 1883.

(3) Any expenses incurred on account of any such purpose as aforesaid and authorised by the candidate shall be duly returned as part of the candidate's election expenses.


I beg to move, to leave out Sub-section (1), and to insert instead thereof:

  1. (1) A person other than the election agent of a candidate shall not incur any expenses on account of holding public 1754 meetings or issuing for distribution advertisements, circulars, or publications, and shall not hold any public meetings or issue for distribution advertisements, circulars, or publications during the period between the issuing of the writ for an election and the close of the poll for the purpose of promoting or procuring the election of any candidate at a Parliamentary election or influencing the result of the election unless authorised in writing to do so by the election agent of a candidate at that election.
  2. (2) For the purposes of this Section the term publication shall not include newspapers, as defined in Section one of the Newspapers Libel and Registration Act, 1881, bonâ-fide established before the issuing of the writ for an election and not established for the purposes of the election."
The Amendment is for the purpose of dealing with certain organisations that may exist and that may interfere indirectly with the result of an election. I am quite certain that the framers of this Bill want to achieve the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference, and this is really a matter of drafting, I maintain, in order that the purpose of these organisations may be defeated. What we want is an authorised person to act on behalf of the candidate, and we wish to get at organisations which work quite independently of the candidate, but who by their propaganda indirectly influence the result of the election. Before the time of the election all sorts of organisations for all sorts of purposes spring into existence. At the last election there was a Tariff Reform League, and, on the other hand, a Free Trade Union; on the one hand we had the suffragette organisation, and on the other the anti-suffragette organisation; we had organisations advocating sweeping reforms of the land system, and, on the other hand, an organisation to preserve the rights and privileges of the landlords. These organisations swoop down at elections, issue posters, and hold meetings. Although they are very careful to keep within the four corners of the law by never mentioning the various candidates before the electors, yet indirectly they take a great part in bringing about a particular result. The public and the electors are very desirous that an election should be made as calm and as clear as possible, and I submit that the propaganda should be confined to the official organisation of the candidate and to the speeches, meetings, and literature of the candidate himself.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)

I am afraid that the hon. Member's Amendment in its present form will not do. The hon. Gentleman proposes to leave out Sub-section (1), and then he uses some of the words which he proposes to leave out in his own Amendment. If I were to put the Amendment in its present form I would exclude an Amendment which stands in the name of the Home Secretary. The hon. Member will see that we must have the words "A person" as part of the Bill. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary's Amendment must come first and the hon. Gentleman can bring up his proposal afterwards in regard to the remainder of it. That would be in order.


I beg to move, after the word "person" ["A person shall not"], to insert the words "other than a candidate or his election agent"


Is it necessary to introduce the word "candidate" at all? Under the existing law the election agent alone acts and is responsible, and I do not know whether it is necessary to have the word "candidate" at all. The point has been brought before me personally, and I am informed that it is not necessary to use the word "candidate" I would suggest that it should be omitted and that the Amendment should apply to the election agent.


I think the hon. Member is absolutely right, that in all these cases the election agent is legally responsible on behalf of the candidate; so that removes the candidate from the category of being a person whom the law allows to carry out the legal details of an election.


I may supplement that by saying that the agent has to make a separate declaration, and the candidate only makes a declaration as to the payment of his personal expenses. Therefore, I submit that the retention of the word "candidate" is not necessary.


Might I add that the retention of the word "candidate" might do great damage to him in connection with the expenses of an election, and in his own protecticn the word "candidate" should be left out altogether.


I would point out that although the hand of the election agent is the hand by which the expenses are paid, the candidate becomes liable for them, and he is really incurring the expenses through his agent. I think my words are right.


I am afraid that I am not an expert in election law. I understand that there are expenses in regard to which the candidate's agent has a special liability, while the candidate himself has a general liability. The agent might commit a fault for which the candidate is not held responsible. The matter is really a little more complicated than it appears at first, but what I think is really desired is that persons other than the candidate or his agent shall not incur the expenses, and in that case there could be no doubt as to the position of the candidate or his agent in connection with the law.

Amendment agreed to.


I am in some difficulty about the Amendment which has just been made at the beginning of the Sub-section.


I may perhaps be able to help the hon. Member. I would suggest that he should move to leave out the words of the Sub-section after the word "issuing."


I beg to move, to leave out from the word "issuing" to the end of Sub-section (1), and to insert instead thereof the words "for distribution advertisements, circulars, or publications, and shall not hold any public meetings or issue for distribution advertisements, circulars, or publications during the period between the issuing of the writ for an election and the close .of the poll for the purpose of promoting or procuring the election of any candidate at a Parliamentary election or influencing the result of the election unless authorised in writing to do so by the election agent of a candidate at that election. (2) For the purposes of this Section the term publication shall not include newspapers, as defined in Section 1 of The Newspapers Libel and Registration Act, 1881, bonâ fide established before the issuing of the writ for an election and not established for the purposes of the election."

I gather from the Home Secretary that he agrees with the purpose of my Amendment, which seeks to exclude outside organisations from interfering with the election of the candidate by holding meetings, issuing advertisements or circulating literature, or in any way interfering with the election either directly or indirectly.


I beg to second the Amendment. I certainly see substance in what the hon. Gentleman has moved and I hope the Home Secretary will see his way to accept it.


The object of this Clause is to carry out an opinion which was laid down by the Speaker's Conference, in Article 28, in which the Conference called attention to the growing practice of outside bodies interfering with elections, and bringing in all kinds of mechanism and paraphernalia which added enormously to the general expenses of the election, and which may or may not be encouraged by the candidate, and often did him no good at all; but undoubtedly caused great interference with the election that was taking place. The Speaker's Conference suggested that any person incurring the expenditure by holding public meetings or issuing advertisements or publications for the purpose of furthering the election of a candidate shall be guilty of a corrupt practice unless such expenditure is authorised by the candidate and returned as part of his election expenses. This Clause is an endeavour to meet the spirit of that proposal. My hon. Friend, in his Amendment, wishes to dot the i's and cross the t's a good deal more. After consulting experts in electioneering and electioneering law, it has not been thought advisable by those who are helping us to put our intentions into an Act of Parliament to try to elaborate this Clause. Whatever you suggest in the way of Amendments, you will leave all kinds of loopholes through which very clever people will be able to drive coaches. A clever newspaper proprietor would be able, under this proposal, to make a free distribution of literature to assist the cause of a particular candidate. We have ex-examined the Clause very carefully, and the Amendment which is now proposed. We have not a very great deal of hope in the Clause, but we have some hope of holding it out as a warning to all kinds of agencies not to come into the constituency and not to spend money furthering the cause of a candidate unless authorised by the candidate or election agent. In that way we may do something to stop a practice which is to all of us most objectionable. We do not think, after very carefully considering the Amendment, that that will give us very much assistance. We see a great deal of loopholes in it, and we think, on the whole, that it is better to stick to our Clause, and not take the Amendment of my hon. Friend, and wait until we see by practice and experience, so that we may be able to amend the Clause effectively so as to carry out what is the general desire of the House and the Speaker's Conference.


I confess to a certain disappointment at the attitude taken up by the right hon. Gentleman—an attitude of "wait and see" He complains that my hon. Friend's Amendment would open some loopholes, but his Clause leaves open not loopholes, but a wide door, and if you wish to keep people out it is better to have a wall even with loopholes than a wall with an inviting open gate. I confess I very much doubt, and so do those who are experts in these matters and have examined this Clause, whether it marks any advance at all on existing law. The present law is that a person who spends money in furtherance of a particular candidature must return that as part of the election expenses. That is evaded wholesale at every election by organisations issuing leaflets and conducting propaganda of all kinds, not in support of the election of any particular candidate, but in support of a cause, and if incidentally particular candidates are assisting that cause, well and good.


There is an essential difference. If it is authorised by the candidate, he must return it as part of his expenses.


The hon. Baronet has missed my point. This Clause deals with expenses "for the purpose of promoting or procuring the election of any candidate." Those are the weak words. The Free Trade Union or the Tariff Reform League would say, "Our leaflets are not issued for the purpose of procuring or promoting the election of any candidate, they do not refer to any candidate; they are issued to induce the country to adopt Free Trade, or to adopt Tariff Reform. Consequently these leaflets need not be returned as part of anyone's election expenses. We distribute them wholesale over the whole country. We did not distribute them for the purpose of securing the return of so-and-so. In fact, we do not know what their views may be. We may indeed issue them in some cases," it might be said, "not in support of any candidate, but against a candidate whom we want above all things to see rejected." Consequently many of those who have regarded this matter with an expert eye think that this Clause will leave the law precisely as it stands now. Therefore, my right hon. Friend is not doing anything to carry out what is the general desire of the House now. He says that this Amendment will not better the Clause, because there may occasionally be some loopholes in it through which a person may leap. How can any of these leagues evade this new Sub-section of the Amendment: A person other than the election agent of a candidate shall not incur any expenses on account of holding public meetings or issuing for distribution advertisements, circulars, or publications . . . .for the purpose of promoting or procuring the election of any candidate at a Parliamentary election or influencing the result of the election. That is the essential difference between this Amendment and the Clause in the Bill, or influencing the result of the election unless authorised in writing to do so by the election agent of a candidate at that election. Therefore, we should be in the position of saying to any of those leagues, "You are incurring this expenditure all over the country for the purpose of influencing the result of the election, and, consequently, this expenditure, must be returned as part of the election expenses." As a result the abuse which we all condemn would be dealt with. Then there comes in this difficulty: It may be that old-established newspapers, like the "Yorkshire Post" or the "Manchester Guardian," would naturally seek to influence the result of the elections, and might urge the voters to vote for certain candidates in, say, the city of Leeds or elsewhere. It would be absurd to provide a by-law that the Press should not do as it has been accustomed to do, and which it renders public service in doing. We have, consequently, to deal specially with the case of the newspaper, and for that reason my hon. Friend proposed this Sub-section in his Amendment: For the purposes of this Sub-section the term 'publication' shall not include newspapers as defined in Section (1) of the Newspapers Libel and Registration Act, 1881, bonâ fide established before the issuing of the writ for an election, and not established for the purposes of the election. Where is the possibility of any fraud in that connection? If it is a bonâ-fide newspaper, why should it not exercise its influence as it now does? What you will do will be to get rid of the evil which now exists of leaflets and pamphlets being distributed wholesale and of professional speakers being sent down from one end of the country to the other and of the payment of expenses of meetings, which, perhaps, double the amount spent on behalf of certain candidates, thus evading the law, while other candidates, who are the candidates of poorer parties, are not able to have this adventitious aid.In these circumstances, I hope that hon. Members, and the House generally, will express their agreement with the Amendment, and press upon the Government the desirability of accepting it.


I am bound to confess considerable alarm at the proposition made, and as to the extent of the prohibition suggested. I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman can possibly be contemplating a funeral oration on Free Trade and the winding up of its affairs? I would be the last to complain of that, but has he forgotten that advertisements may be extended so as to include a miniature Madame Tussauds? I myself have seen the model of a Chinaman in chains, in slavery. Again, there was the notorious North Paddington shop where black bread and offal were exhibited as the food of the Germans in those days. If the term "advertisement" is going to include these displays, I should welcome it. I doubt if it would. I cannot for the life of me see that you can possibly say that each newspaper advocating the interest of a locality is an advertisement in the sense explained, and which can be allocated in the particular case of the candidate. It seems to me, as one with a lot of work and experience over many, many years in the ranks before I entered this House, that the proposals of the Government are amply sufficient to cover the case. Moreover, one knows perfectly well that leaflets are often issued perfectly rightly. Why should not these leaflets be issued? They are sent out on both sides. They are written by men of experience. It would be practically impossible for them to be issued by the candidate otherwise than as at present. The candidate could not undertake this work. Under the existing law in regard to expenses, generous as it is in comparison with what the law will be in the near future, it would be absolutely impossible for the candidate to get together the material necessary and deal with the matter himself in such a controversy, say, as between Free Trade and Tariff Reform. You could not possibly do it within your expenditure; and you cannot always expect newspaper proprietors will fill their columns with this information you want circulating. Look at the leaflets that have come out from an educational point of view, or imports and exports and so forth. They go into the hands of electors in that particular form. Let us recognise what all this means. Let any candidate go to his own printer and ask him to give an estimate of some of the cost of this work, and he will be frightened to death at the cost. If you are not going to have any educational literature at elections at all, say so, and let the election be conducted purely upon what is said at the street corner or in the hall. Forbid the post, and everything else, but do so at the outset and declare that the masses shall not be educated in these controversies which separate the two candidates. There may be many controversies, and it may be necessary to give directions, and these can only be given in the form of circulars issued by these persons and societies that make a matter of specialising at election time. I quite agree that some of this work has been carried to excess. I quite agree that the introduction into a by-election of leagues and organisations working on their own account and not in a way connected with the election is an inconvenience. Both candidates and election agents doubtless deplore this, because you have no control over these organisations. They go their own way. But a General Election is a very different thing, and I do think that the right hon. Gentleman is correct when he says that the Bill affords every possible protection for those concerned.


I admit at once that this matter is not without difficulty. I think it is absurd to expect all organisations to stand aside in regard to educational work, and allow the candidates to fight it out by themselves. These organisations have a perfect right to use the chance of an election to press forward their particular points of view—from a purely educational standpoint. I do not see that anybody who believes in the liberty of things has any right to object to them. What, however, we do object to is the abuse of this practice which leads to the flooding of constituencies with all sorts of electioneering organisations, and it is very difficult indeed to see how that particular matter is going to be met. I myself do not see that the Government proposals carry us very far, because any of these organisations can go into a constituency and throw their whole weight on the side of one candidate, or one party, and yet evade entirely the intentions of this Amendment. They might never even mention the party or a candidate. They may not ask anybody to support a candidate, and yet they may be doing his work from start to finish. I am not sure whether this Amendment might not now be amended in the direction of grouping, so to speak, all the organisations actually coming into the constituency in order to take an active part, or what becomes an active part, in the work of an election itself, and where that is done the candidate undoubtedly should be held responsible for the expenses. I think that ought to be managed in a far more water-tight way than is now proposed by the Government; in a far more strict way than the one proposed. Unless that is done I am quite sure that the Amendment as it now stands, though I admit there are very real difficulties, will not meet objections, for matters after this will go on very largely as before.


The whole House will be glad indeed to prevent the evils which all of us fully recognise go on at elections. But if one examines this particular proposal, I think there is one very serious objection to it, in that it prevents the issue of any publication during the period between the issue of the writ and the close of the poll, and that it specifically exempts from its provisions any newspaper. Some of us know the uses which are made of local newspapers at the time of an election. You specifically allow any organisation to buy up for the time being any local newspaper, and you may use that local newspaper for all your purposes of leaflets and other publications. You will not attempt to stop or restrict it in any way. If I were a newspaper proprietor I should certainly vote for this Amendment, because it would certainly increase the value of newspapers during election time. That would be the only possible way whereby any organisation could issue a publication and printed matter during the course of the election.


Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will note that that part of the Amendment, "Section (1) of the Newspapers Liberal and Registration Act, 1881," covers his point?


With great respect, any newspaper coming within that Section would be entitled to issue a circular or pamphlet within the constituency, or to put in anything it liked in regard to the conduct of the election, and it could be distributed free. The only qualification is that it must have been issued as a paper prior to the issue of the writ. I have no doubt that when an election was coming anyone of these big organisations would start a newspaper three months before the election, and in that way get round the whole business. The candidate who was prepared to spend money would do it through the local papers. He would buy up local newspapers by giving a sufficient number of advertisements to get them to say anything that was desired. The fact that you have got this proviso shows the extreme difficulty of dealing with the whole matter.

9.0 P. M.


I should like to support the Amendment. When this Clause was before the Committee some of us urged upon the Government that they should strengthen it. I am still of the opinion I held at that time, that I do not think Clause 28 as drafted in the Bill is going to help us very much to put down what I think Members belonging to all parties wish to put down at election time. It is especially rife in by-elections. I would like to call attention to what has happened at recent by-elections in the county of London. I dare say hon. Members will remember what was called the "celebrated" Peckham election, which was entirely run by outside bodies; in fact, I think I may go so far as to say that some of the societies at that election were really bogus societies, specially got up for that particular election. No doubt hundreds of pounds were spent on political cries at that election, and none of that money, I believe, was ever returned in any election expenses. The hon. and learned Member for Ealing has rather supported the idea that these outside bodies should come into constituencies and be allowed to issue pamphlets, leaflets, and things of that kind. Once you allow this principle at General elections or by-elections, unless you pass the Clause in an amended form, you are going to have no control over the amount of money these outside bodies can spend. I remember another election in London where an ex-Minister of the Crown had to stand for re-election, and I think I am correct in stating that at that particular by-election there were something like twelve committee rooms in the main road of that particular district. There were all kinds of organisations, some of them for the purpose of returning the opponent of the Minister, and some specially set up in order to keep the Minister out I do not think Members on the opposite side of politics from myself will think that that kind of thing is fair fighting, and I think Members who have gone through election fights will agree that the way in which outside organisations have come into elections recently has become practically a public scandal. I hope now that we have the opportunity we shall, at any rate, strengthen the Clause in the Bill in order to make it very much stronger than it is. I think when this matter was before the House in Committee I mentioned the case of a certain by-election where the candidates of both parties agreed that no posters should be issued by either side, and that bargain was loyally kept, I believe, by the agents of both parties; but a certain newspaper, for the purpose probably of advertisement or circulation, and probably with the idea of helping one particular candidate, printed on their posters the particular candidate's name, and the whole of the division was posted with thousands of these posters. That kind of thing has happened in London local elections. The posters of certain newspapers have been brought out with electioneering matter upon them, and all the boards outside the newspaper shops have had those particular posters, and have been practically turned into election hoardings for the time being. I believe Members on both sides who are going to fight elections in the future want this kind of thing to stop. I am of the same opinion as other hon. Members who have spoken, that Clause 28 as drafted leaves things more or less as they were. This particular Clause is in effect in the Corrupt Practices Act at the present time, and I suppose during recent years —at any rate, before the War—there were no by-elections where there were not hundreds of pounds spent by various outside organisations in the interest of one or other of the particular candidates. I shall certainly vote for the Amendment if my hon. Friend goes to a Division, but I hope the Government will see their way to accept the Amendment and strengthen Clause 28


There is a very essential difference between this proposal and the existing law, in so far as certain things are done by outside agents, or by gentlemen who desire to assist the candidate, and very often do him a lot of harm. Of course, that is included in the election expenses.


Not if it is not authorised by the candidate.


That has nothing to do with it. That is another point. This Clause provides that the expenses of certain people must be returned in the election expenses. The whole thing is one of great difficulty. I do not suppose any of us want to have things done that ought not to be done, and I am sure very often .I pray to be saved from any friends at election time. I have repeatedly found that they have done me more harm than good, and I am sure that is the experience of many people. They have issued posters, leaflets and pamphlets that you would not under any circumstances, and they have often produced very awkward and serious results. But the matter is of the greatest difficulty, and the very fact that the hon. Member who proposed the Amendment thinks it necessary—and quite properly—to make an exception in the case of newspapers, shows how the moment you make that exception you need not try any more to amend Clause 28. It would give an absolutely free hand to do what you like through the newspapers, and everybody knows who knows, anything about it how easily that would work. Anyone who has seen an election issue of a newspaper knows that it is not usually the issue which is sold at the bookstalls, but generally something quite different, and is filled with matter it is thought advantageous to a particular candidate. As election expenses have been so largely reduced, party funds would be used in newspapers. I should see to that myself. I should think that that was part of my duty if I had an opportunity of using certain matter which I could not afford to neglect. That would be done all over the place, and the last stage would be as bad as the first. We must be content to accept something like Clause 28, with a provision that in certain cases these expenses have to be met by the candidate, and we must take our chance.


I think Sub-section (1) should be considered quite apart from Sub-section (2), because they involve different proposals. During the discussion some hon. Members have spoken upon one part and others have discussed the other part, and confusion has resulted. I desire to refer to Sub-section (1). I have listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Baronet who has just spoken, but what he has suggested does not appear to me to have met the case, neither do the Government proposals. I have had it brought home to me more than once, because I have fought two bye-elections in addition to general elections, and consequently I know at first hand just what the difficulty is which this Clause is intended to prevent. I do not think the Clause as it stands in the Bill does prevent those results. The outside incursions into a constituency do not profess to come on behalf of any particular candidate, but on behalf of some cause either for or against, and the consequence is that they help one candidate or injure another, as the case may be, but they could not be brought within the provision laid down here as to procuring the election of any candidate at the Parliamentary election. If the matter is left there I think the position will be very much like we are in at the present moment, and unless some other words are added to strengthen the provision in the direction we ask, the general desire of the House will not be met. The important words are "or influencing the result of the election." I recognise that those are very broad words, but they are in the direction we desire, and I would invite the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, realizing our difficulties, if these words do not satisfy him, to suggest some modification which will meet the general desire of the House. I submit that the words in the Bill do not meet the case. My hon. Friend has proposed words, but if they are not satisfactory perhaps the Government will suggest an alternative.


The Government will, between now and the appearance of this Bill in another place, give some consideration to this question. We have had a very interesting Debate on the whole subject as to how far you can prevent outside organisations coming into a constituency and interfering with an election. I share a great deal the view expressed by the hon. Member for the Attercliffe Division (Mr. Anderson). After all you cannot stop a great educational propaganda going on, and it will go on whether we are engaged, in a general election or a by-election or no election at all. Supposing the other day we had not admitted something like. 5,000,000 additional electors at local elections, does anybody suppose that you could have kept the women out of the constituency at an election by any such Amendment as my hon. Friend has put down? The women would know the views of the different candidates and they would throw their influence on one side or the other in that subtle way which is so familiar to us all. The women would say that they were carrying on an educational propaganda and they were not doing it to influence the election, but to influence public opinion of this country, and they would be right in doing it. They could speak at every street corner, and under this Amendment they could say that they were not incurring any expense, but were paying their own expenses. They might speak at every street corner and in every prominent public place, urging their views as to the necessity of admitting women to the local government franchise.


I would not object to that as long as they did not expend money on it.


But they would say that they were not spending money on it. They would say that they were paid for the ordinary propaganda work throughout the year, that all this comes in a year's work, and that they were not paying for this particular action in returning a particular member. The Government have most carefully considered this question, and we find it full of the most enormous complications and difficulties. Clause 28 may be a hopeless failure, but, at any rate, it is a kind of warning to these outside organi- sations not to spend money in supporting a particular candidate, because it would have to be included in the candidate's expenses. Under the first part of the Amendment all the speakers and the people we have in mind will say that they do not enter into the contest for promoting or procuring the election of any particular candidate. They will say, "We are carrying on the same propaganda which we intend to carry on until our cause is triumphant." As regards expense, you will have enormous difficulties in regard to that matter. The second part of the Amendment would allow the free distribution of any number of newspapers, and that is one of the most potent matters in influencing elections at the present time. There may be a free issue of a newspaper which does not mention the name of the candidate, but it may contain most powerful articles, full of arguments declaring that there is only one cause worth fighting for, and anybody who reads that newspaper and looks at the election literature concludes that he must vote for So-and-so, who advocates the cause put forward by his own newspaper, and which, he believes is the only possible cause to bring salvation to the country.

All these things will go on, and. I could drive not only [...] coach and four, but twenty coaches with eight horses through the proposals of this Amendment. We have carefully examined this Amendment, but I may say in conclusion that I will ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to read very carefully all that has been said in this Debate, and we will reconsider this question between now and the time the Bill goes to another place, to see whether we can devise any form of words by which we may stop what we all think is the undesirable practice of outside organisations coming into an election area and interfering by a large expenditure with the election, and generally interfering with the rules of the election upon which the two candidates have agreed. If we cannot find any better words by which we can warn off associations from spending money in the actual prosecution of the candidature of any of those seeking to be elected whilst at the same time not interfering with legitimate educational propaganda, we will submit a Clause in another place.


We realise that this Amendment, as drafted, will not possibly have the effect that is desired, and we are pleased to know that the right hon. Gen- tleman will consult his colleagues and try when the Bill gets to another place to put in some words to strengthen the Clause. The only regret we have is that between the Committee stage and now they have not been able to find any such words. It is really sad to think that it is not possible to grapple with this question. The Speaker's Conference was unanimous in pointing out this grievance, which is a modern one, and the whole House is satisfied that something ought to be done to meet it. We all admit the difficulty, and that there may be means of getting round the Amendment, but still with the legal acumen at their disposal the Government ought to get much nearer to it than they have at present. We are told that you can have leaflets and speakers flooding a constituency in favour of a particular cause. Organisations are created for a particular election and cease as soon as that election is over. We want to get at that, and, unless we do, what is the use of having a Clause limiting the expenditure of a candidate? You have limited the legitimate expenditure of a candidate, but other persons may come in and spend large sums, handicapping to an alarming extent not only working men but those who have limited means to fight a constituency. I sincerely hope that the Government, with their legal assistance, will be able to insert something in another place to meet what was felt by the Speaker's Conference, and what is felt by the whole House, to be a grievance which ought to be dealt with in the cause of purity of elections and the right of the voters to get a proper return at the elections.


I do not feel so sure about this Amendment as my hon. Friend appears to be. The effect of it will be to give an absolute monopoly to persons possessing newspapers. Anyone who has got control of a newspaper will have an absolute and complete monopoly for disseminating his views, and that seems to me worse than that the views of a newspaper proprietor should be counteracted by a party organisation. If my hon. Friend carried his Amendment or the spirit of it, the whole of the election literature would be in the hands of those who secured something in the nature of a newspaper trust. That would be a very serious state of affairs. Anybody who knows the state of the public Press at the present time and the extent to which it is controlled by a very small number of people, will see for himself that to put it out of power at a time of great public excitement to counteract the influence of a newspaper trust is a very serious and dangerous thing to do. I hope nothing will be introduced into this Bill which makes it impossible for private organisations, extemporised for the purposes of an election, to do anything which a newspaper is entitled to do.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: In Sub-section (1), after the word "candidate," insert the words "or his election agent."—[Mr. Hayes Fisher.]