Dissolution of Parliament

Dissolution of Parliament

Dissolution is the official term for the end of a Parliament. Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 a general election must be held in the UK, and a new Parliament elected, every five years.

Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 a Parliament is dissolved 25 working days before the general election.

Parliament was dissolved on 30 March 2015.

Parliament may be 'prorogued' a few days before being dissolved. At prorogation all parliamentary business ends, although that Parliament would still exist until dissolution.

The 2014-15 session of Parliament was prorogued on Thursday 26 March 2015.

When Parliament has been dissolved the Monarch issues a royal proclamation summoning the new Parliament. The royal proclamation is published in the London and Edinburgh Gazettes.

The Prime Minister asked Her Majesty to summon the new Parliament to meet on Monday 18 May 2015, when the business was the election of the Commons Speaker and the swearing-in of members.

The State Opening of Parliament took place on Wednesday 27 May 2015.

House of Commons

When Parliament is dissolved, every seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant. All business in the House comes to an end. There are no Members of Parliament. MPs revert to being members of the public and lose privileges associated with being a Member of Parliament.

MPs are allowed access to Parliament for just a few days in which to remove papers from their offices. The facilities that the House provides for MPs in Westminster during a Parliament are no longer available to them from 5pm on the day of dissolution.

Until a new Parliament is elected, there are no MPs. Those who wish to be MPs again must stand again as candidates for election.

Role of the Commons Speaker at dissolution

The Speaker is no longer an MP once Parliament is dissolved as there are no longer any MPs until the new Parliament is returned.

Like every other MP, the Speaker must stand for re-election at a general election if he or she wishes to become an MP again. If the Speaker stands as a candidate in the election they stand as 'Speaker seeking re-election'.

House of Lords

Members of the House of Lords are appointed, not elected. Members of the House of Lords retain their positions, but all business in the House comes to an end when Parliament is dissolved.

While Members of the Lords can access the premises of Parliament, only limited facilities and services are available to them.

Dissolution honours for former MPs

It is customary for the Prime Minister to recommend new life peerages for some former MPs to the Queen at the end of a Parliament in a Dissolution Honours list.

Parliament and Government are two separate institutions.

The Government does not resign when Parliament is dissolved. Government ministers remain in charge of their departments until after the result of the election is known and a new administration is formed.

The Prime Minister is appointed by the Sovereign. Ministers are appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister. These appointments are independent of the role of MP. Ministers retain their ministerial titles after dissolution, but those who were MPs can no longer use the MP suffix.

The Cabinet Manual sets out the main laws, rules and conventions affecting the conduct and operation of government.

Pre-election period 

Guidance is issued to civil servants on the principles that they should observe in relation to the conduct of Government business in the run-up to forthcoming elections. This period is sometimes referred to as 'purdah'. In 2015 the pre-election period commenced at dissolution, on 30 March.

The House of Commons Library produces briefing papers to inform MPs and their staff of key issues. The papers contain factual information and a range of opinions on each subject, and aim to be politically impartial.

The Library has published briefing papers on the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 and the dissolution of Parliament.

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2015 election timetable

The general election took place on Thursday 7 May 2015. Read the timetable for what is expected to happen, from the end of the current Parliament through to polling day and beyond.

Election timetables

The Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 increased the length of Parliamentary election timetables, both for general elections and by-elections.