Writs are legal documents which authorise the holding of a general election or by-election. When Parliament is dissolved prior to a general election, writs are issued declaring that an election be held in each constituency. 

The Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 removed the power of the Monarch to issue these writs, making it instead a statutory responsibility of the Lord Chancellor and, for Northern Ireland, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. For a by-election the writ is issued by the Speaker of the House of Commons.

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