Shadow Chief Whip, Rosie Winterton, moved the Writ for the Feltham and Heston by-election on 24 November 2011. It is expected the by-election will take place on Thursday 15 December 2011
The moving of the Writ follows the death of Alan Keen on 10 November 2011. A by-election will take place in the Feltham and Heston constituency.
A by-election occurs when a seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant during the lifetime of a Parliament (ie between general elections), because the sitting MP dies, resigns (by applying for the Chiltern Hundreds), is elevated to the peerage, or becomes ineligible to sit for some other reason.
How an MP vacates their seat
A resolution passed by the House of Commons on 2 March 1624 prohibits MPs directly from resigning their seats. Death, disqualification and expulsion are the only means by which a Member’s seat may be vacated during the lifetime of a Parliament.
An MP who wishes to resign has to go through the process of applying for a paid office of the Crown, which automatically disqualifies the MP from holding a seat in the House of Commons. There are two offices which MPs can apply for, Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chilterns Hundreds and of the Manor of Northstead.
An MP wishing to resign applies to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for one of the offices, which he or she retains until the Chancellor appoints another applicant or until the holder applies for release from it. (Every new warrant issued revokes the previous holder). It is usual to grant the offices alternately; as this enables two Members to retire at precisely the same time.
Image: Parliamentary copyright