A general election is when the electors of the country cast their votes to elect Members of Parliament.
After the Fixed Term Parliament Act was passed on 15 September 2011, the date of the next general election is set at 7 May 2015. The act provides for general elections to be held on the first Thursday in May every five years. There are two provisions that trigger an election other than at five year intervals.
A motion of no confidence is passed in Her Majesty's Government by a simple majority and 14 days elapses without the House passing a confidence motion in any new Government formed
A motion for a general election is agreed by two thirds of the total number of seats in the Commons including vacant seats (currently 434 out of 650)
Once the dissolution of Parliament has been announced, the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery issues Writs of Election. At this time the date of meeting for the new Parliament will also be announced. Although the Government continues in office, there cease to be any MPs and they may not use the facilities of the House while the general election is in progress. At the beginning of a new Parliament the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery will deliver to the Clerk of the House a return book, which lists the Members who won constituency seats and therefore have the right to serve in Parliament.
Further information on this subject can be found from the following links.
About Parliament: General elections
About Parliament: Dissolution of Parliament
Get involved: Elections and referendums