HC Deb 05 November 1959 vol 612 cc1201-3
38. Mr. Collick

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he proposes to take to prevent private business interests spending large sums of money on political propaganda immediately preceding a General election, to expend enormous sums of of Parliament when it imposed limitations on a candidate's expenses at such elections.

Mr. Vosper

My right hon. Friend has no reason to think that the law on this subject is inadequate or is not effectively enforced.

Mr. Collick

Is it not the case that when Parliament imposed a maximum limitation on the expenses of Parliamentary candidates it was clearly intended that there should be fairness between candidates, and that personal wealth should not have undue advantage? Surely it vitiates the whole of that principle if wealthy vested interests are allowed, immediately preceding the Election, to expend enormous sums of money to create a climate of opinion favourable to the Government party and unfavourable to the main Opposition party? Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that unless something is done about this by the Government themselves somebody else will certainly have to do something about it?

Mr. Vosper

I am sure the hon. Member realises that this is covered by the Representation of the People Act, 1949, and that Section 159 provides for information to be given to the Director of Public Prosecutions. I would draw his attention to that Section.

Mr. McAdden

Would my right hon. Friend have a look at this question most carefully and bear in mind the considerable expenditure on the part of the co-operative societies and especially that part which was spent on propaganda during the election period in plastering all their windows with the words, "All Prices Reduced", thus contributing to Conservative victory?

Mr. Bevan

Is it not rather extra ordinary that a Question of this importance should not have been answered by the Home Secretary? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we on this side of the House would like to take all these matters into consideration, including the co-operative societies? Is the right hon. Gentleman not further aware that the authority of the House will be reduced in the minds of citizens if it is widely felt that the election has been rigged—

Mr. Osborne

Take your beating like a man.

Mr. Bevan

Rigged by means of vast expenditure of money in the possession of the wealthier members of the community? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members will permit me to put my supplementary question. Is it not a fact that if we cannot retain the authority of the House, then, of course, people will try to redress their wrongs in other ways?

Hon. Members


Mr. Vosper

The right hon. Gentleman will have noticed that the protests against the electoral law have come equally from both sides of the House.

Mr. Bevan


Mr. Vosper

That, indeed, is the case. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will, of course, accept the suggestion that the whole question should be looked at.

Mr. Grimond

Will the Home Secretary bear in mind that, whatever objections are taken to the electoral matter by the major parties, they are nothing to the objections taken by the smaller parties?

Mr. Fernyhough

Since the right hon. Gentleman says that there is nothing wrong in private employers indulging in propaganda to suit the Tory Party, would he say the same if the boards of the nationalised industries decided to defend themselves in the same manner?

Mr. Collick

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.