HC Deb 26 July 1951 vol 491 cc635-7
44. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that paper, board and similar materials have increased in cost by 100 per cent. or more, since the February, 1950, General Election and printing 25 per cent., or more, and that the average costs of these materials and services in an average constituency of 56,000 electors, was in excess of £300 at that election; and whether, in view of these rises in the cost of essential election services he will introduce legislation to sanction a commensurate increase in the maxima permitted current election expenses, respectively £450 plus 2d. per elector in a county constituency, and £450 plus 1½d. per elector in a borough constituency, for all future Parliamentary elections and by-elections.

Mr. Ede

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner), on 15th March last.

Mr. Nabarro

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the maxima permitted election expenses set out in the Representation of the People Act, 1948, were based on the purchasing power of the £ at that time, and that the purchasing power of the £ has declined very considerably even since last March? Is it not equitable, therefore, that we should get some adjustment of this figure?

Mr. Ede

I think it desirable that the amount to be spent should be kept as low as possible, but if there were general agreement among the political parties that some alteration was needed, I would be willing to consider it.

Mr. Nally

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind, in examining the facts contained in this Question, that so far as the Labour Party is concerned we have no desire at all to emulate the splashing around of Tory money that is going on in the constituencies of hon. Members opposite?

Mr. Nabarro

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any consultations have taken place between his Department and the principal political parties about this problem, which is becoming ever more virulent?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir, but if my Department were approached we should be quite willing to enter into consultations.

Mr. Mulley

In view of these facts, would my right hon. Friend see that these maximum sums are not exceeded when the election comes without appropriate action following?

Sir H. Williams

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at the conference held under Mr. Speaker's presidency I was primarily responsible for the proposal to cut down the cost of election expenses? I very much resent the remarks of the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. Nally).