HC Deb 21 October 1976 vol 917 cc1646-7
13. Mr. John Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received about the need to increase the deposit for candidates at parliamentary elections.

Mr. John

Since 1st January 1975 Home Office Ministers have answered nine Questions on the size of the deposit, two of which specifically suggested that it be increased.

Mr. Hunt

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that merely to keep pace with inflation the deposit would have to be increased to well over £1,000, bearing in mind when it was first fixed at £150? I do not necessarily advocate increasing it to that figure, but is it not a fact that the present very low figure, which was first fixed as long ago as 1918, is an open invitation to every crank in the land to stand for Parliament, merely for the cheap publicity?

Mr. John

I think that there should be a law against the hon. Gentleman incriminating himself in public. The hon. Gentleman does not seem to appreciate that this is primarily a matter for the Speaker's Conference. We hope that it will be one of the matters that the Speaker's Conference will take into account.

Mr. Madden

Does my hon. Friend accept that whatever the amount of the deposit, it will do little to stop certain wealthy individuals from standing in any number of constituencies, as has happened in recent elections? Does he agree that some regulations could be introduced whereby an individual is allowed to stand for election in only one constituency at any given time?

Mr. John

That is a matter that can be considered. However, the rise in candidates is not as dramatic as some hon. Members seem to think. In December 1918 the figure was 1,623. In October 1974 it was 2,252. That is hardly taking advantage of inflation and the depreciation in the value of money.