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Dissolution of Parliament

The dissolution of Parliament took place on Thursday 30 May 2024. All business in the House of Commons and House of Lords has come to an end. There are currently no MPs and every seat in the Commons is vacant until after the general election on 4 July 2024.

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A UK parliamentary by-election happens when a seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant between general elections.

Why are by-elections held?

A by-election is held when a seat becomes vacant. This can happen when an MP:

  • resigns or dies
  • is declared bankrupt
  • takes a seat in the House of Lords
  • is convicted of a serious criminal offence.

A by-election does not have to take place if an MP changes political party.

Until an election, an MP of the same party in a neighbouring constituency manages constituency matters.

What is 'moving the writ'?

The Chief Whip of the political party whose MP held the vacant seat starts the process of a by-election.

This starts by 'moving the Writ', a motion requesting:

"that the Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a new Writ for the electing of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the constituency of .... in the room of..."

The Speaker puts the question to MPs to decide whether to agree to the motion.

If MPs agree it becomes an Order for the Speaker. The Speaker then issues a Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown who then sends the writ to the Returning Officer.

What is the timetable for by-elections?

A new Writ is usually issued within three months of the vacancy. There have been a few times when seats remained vacant longer than six months. Seats will be left vacant towards the end of a Parliament. They are then filled at the general election.

If there are many vacant seats by-elections can take place on the same day.

The by-election timetable is between 21 and 27 working days from the issuing of the writ.

Previous by-elections

Find out more about previous by-elections.


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The UK is currently divided into 650 areas called parliamentary constituencies, each of which is represented by one MP in the House of Commons.

Electoral Commission

The Electoral Commission is an independent body, accountable directly to the UK Parliament, that regulates elections in the UK, promotes voter awareness and works to build confidence in the electoral process.

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