§ 11.15 a.m.
§ Brought from the Commons, and read 1a.
§ Then, Standing Order No. 44 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution):926
THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. There was published yesterday the Fourth Report from the Speaker's Conference on Electoral Law which recommended an increase in the amount that a candidate for another place may spend on his election expenses, and the proposition was that the limits should be increased from those at the present moment in the law to the figures that appear in the Bill; that is to say, the existing maxima of £750 plus 5p for every six electors in a county constituency and for every eight electors in a borough constituency. This figure is to be increased to £1,075 plus 6p for every six electors in a county constituency and for every eight electors in a borough constituency. This covers a number of expenses—not the candidate's personal expenses, but printing, advertising, stationery, hire of committee rooms, and so on; also fees paid to election agents, sub-agents, polling agents, clerks and messengers.
As many noble Lords will know, particularly those who have been Members of the other place, it is illegal knowingly to incur expenses in excess of the maximum. This is essentially a matter for aspiring Members to another place. That House passed the Bill yesterday. I am very willing to answer any questions that noble Lords may wish to ask, but we thought there was an urgent need to legislate upon this matter in order to provide these increases for candidates, and I hope your Lordships will therefore agree that it is right that we should hasten this Bill through this House in rather the same way as it went rapidly through another place yesterday. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I think the Speaker and his Conference are to be congratulated on disinterring this Report in time to make it possible for aspiring Members of Parliament—and this of course is no concern of ours—to be less at risk in regard to their expense limits. The many Members of your Lordships' House who have been candidates for and Members of another place will remember the slight agony 927 while the agent tries to complete his accounts and make them fit the law. I will say no more than that, except for the further comment that if the present rate of inflation goes on during the remaining days of this Government, the amount may be inadequate.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, this measure is obviously sensible and merely represents the increase in the cost of living; therefore it should go through.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, I am grateful for those comments. In fact the Speaker made a small reference to the decrease in purchasing power, and I have a feeling that those concerned with him in this matter will have taken account of the effect of the next three weeks. I fancy what they have done is to add a little.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.