Dissolution of Parliament: 12 April 2010

05 May 2010

The Queen made a Proclamation dissolving the 2005-10 Parliament at a meeting of the Privy Council this morning. The Proclamation was then brought to the Houses of Parliament for the dissolution formalities to be completed. It was sealed with the Great Seal of the Realm and Parliament formally dissolved at 11.41am.

By tradition, once the Proclamation has been signed by the Queen, it is publicised as soon as it has been received. It was delivered by hand by the Privy Council Office to the Serjeant-at-Arms at the Lord Mayor’s official residence, Mansion House. The Serjeant - also known as the Common Cryer - then processed to the Royal Exchange in the City of London and read out the Proclamation at 3pm.

Why does a Parliament end?

Under UK law, a general election must be held and a new Parliament elected, at least every five years. The Prime Minister can call a general election at any time within this period and not all Parliaments last the full five years.

What does dissolution mean for MPs?

When Parliament is dissolved every seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant. MPs lose all the privileges associated with being a Member of Parliament.

They are allowed access to Parliament for just a few days to remove papers and equipment from their offices. But all MPs' services and facilities are closed at 5pm on the day of dissolution.

Until a new Parliament is elected, MPs do not exist. Those who want to be re-elected must stand again as candidates.

What does dissolution mean for the Lords?

Members of the House of Lords are appointed - not elected - so during dissolution they remain Members. However, all business in the Lords comes to an end, and while Members can access Parliament, only limited facilities and services are available.

By law they have to take an oath of allegiance to the Crown when they take their seats in the new Parliament. This time they will also sign an undertaking to abide by the House of Lords' Code of Conduct.

Who runs the country while there is no Parliament?

The Government does not resign when Parliament is dissolved. Essential business must carry on and government ministers remain in charge of their departments until after the election result is known.

However, the Government suspends any advertising campaigns and doesn't make major policy decisions or announcements. This used to be known as 'purdah' but is now usually called the pre-election period.

When is a new government formed?

After the election, the current governing party continues in power if it keeps a majority of support in the House of Commons. If it doesn't, a new government will be formed. The Queen will ask the person who has a majority of Commons support to become Prime Minister and to form a new government.

When does Parliament return?

Both Houses of Parliament return on Tuesday 18 May. The new MPs and Members of the Lords start swearing allegiance to the crown, or making an affirmation. The Commons starts the process of electing a Speaker.

The State Opening of Parliament takes place on Tuesday 25 May.

Find out more

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