How can Parliament be dissolved?
By law, Parliament is dissolved 25 working days before a general election.
The next general election will be held on Thursday 8 June 2017, meaning Parliament will be dissolved at 00.01am on Wednesday 3 May 2017.
Parliament may be 'prorogued' a few days before dissolution. At prorogation, all parliamentary business ends but Parliament continues to exist until dissolution.
What happens to Parliament at dissolution?
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.
What happens to the Government when Parliament is dissolved?
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.
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.
Commons Library briefings
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.