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Election deposit should be scrapped

The £500 deposit required to stand as a candidate in a general election should be scrapped to give voters a wider choice of would-be MPs, a regulator has said.

The Electoral Commission said the ability to pay a deposit - lost if the candidate fails to obtain 5% of the vote - was not a "relevant or appropriate" factor in determining whether a candidate should be on the ballot paper.

The proposal is one of a series of reforms put forward by the watchdog to modernise the system for deciding who can contest elections in the UK.

Electoral Commission chairwoman Jenny Watson said: "The current rules on standing for election are complex, out-of-date and difficult for candidates to navigate.

"We've listened to a wide range of views and our recommendations will make it easier for candidates to stand for election in the future, whilst maintaining trust and confidence in the system."

The report recommended scrapping deposits for all elections in the UK, not just to Westminster seats.

If deposits are scrapped, candidates would still be required to gather the signatures of a set number of supporters to show that they are genuinely contesting an election.

The Electoral Commission report said: "Larger parties were generally of the view that paying a deposit required a candidate to demonstrate proper intent, and that deposits deterred 'non-serious' candidates.

"On the other hand, smaller parties and independent candidates said that deposits could be unaffordable and therefore they restricted their ability to participate in elections."

The watchdog said: " In the case of deposits, it does not seem reasonable to have a barrier to standing for election that depends on someone's financial means. We do not think that the ability to pay a specified fee is a relevant or appropriate criterion for determining access to the ballot paper.

"We therefore recommend that deposit requirements are abolished."

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