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Saturday, 17 February, 2001, 14:57 GMT
Rules for candidates

To stand for parliament, candidates must do two things - they must be officially nominated and they must hand over a deposit.

The nomination papers must be signed by 10 registered voters from the constituency, two of whom must formally propose and second the candidate. The remaining eight merely express their assent.

The papers must be delivered to the constituency's returning officer between the fourth and sixth working days after the official writs announcing the election have been published.

Bill papers
Candidates must pay a 500 deposit
Candidates must also give the returning officer their full name and address - which need not be in the constituency.

Those belonging to registered parties are also allowed an official description of their party to go on the ballot paper.

The deposit

Candidates have to deposit 500 with the returning officer. This is returned to them if they gain 5% of the votes cast.

The purpose of the deposit is to deter frivolous candidates.

This system was first introduced in 1918 when the deposit was 150 - about 4,500 at today's values - and the share of the vote to save it was 12.5%.

Those figures remained unchanged until 1985 when the current figures were introduced.

Controlled expenditure

In order to try to stop individual candidates trying to 'buy' an election by spending vast sums of money, there are strict controls on what they may spend.

Candidates must deposit 500
Candidates must deposit 500
Up to the 1997 general election, there was no limit to the amount parties could spend nationally, but that has now changed - see Party spending limits.

In 1997, the maximum expense which could be incurred by a candidate or their agent was 4,965 plus 5.6p for every voter on the electoral roll in county constituencies and 4.2p per voter in borough constituencies.

The different amount represents the extra costs involved in publicising a candidate in the larger area.

Some types of expenditure are prohibited altogether, such as paying people to canvass - all canvassing must be by unpaid volunteers.

The maximum figure does not include a candidate's personal expenditure such as their own transport and accommodation.

Most election expenses - nearly 80% in 1997 - go on printing and stationery.

In addition, candidates have a free Post Office delivery of their election address to every home in the constituency and free use of rooms in public buildings for their election meetings.

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