Page last updated at 09:29 GMT, Wednesday, 1 October 2008 10:29 UK

Imprisoned MPs

Anyone convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment for more than one year, who is serving that sentence at the time of an election, cannot stand for Parliament.

A sitting MP convicted and imprisoned for more than one year must vacate their seat.

The Speaker normally reports the imprisonment of a member to the House, except perhaps in cases where the stay in prison is very short.

Since 1945 only two MPs have left or been expelled from the House for this reason - Captain Peter Baker (Conservative) in 1954, and John Stonehouse (Labour) in 1976.

Sinn Fein MP Bobby Sands although imprisoned, was not sentenced, and could therefore stand for Parliament, though he never took his seat. Mr Sands was in prison in Northern Ireland and was elected while on hunger strike in April 1981. He died shortly afterwards.

Terry Fields, Labour MP from 1983-92, was imprisoned for non-payment of the community charge, but not for long enough to disqualify him from Parliament.

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