The Prime Minister tried and failed three times to trigger an early general election through the Fixed Term Parliament Act (FTPA), where the backing of two thirds of MPs (434) is required. On 29 October Parliament backed a short Early General Election Bill which sets aside the provisions set out in the FTPA and needs a simple majority to pass.
The bill passed by 438 votes to 20 – incidentally more than the two thirds the FTPA requires – and set the date for early election as Thursday 12 December.
What happens after the Early General Election Bill has been passed and a date has been set?
As is laid down in statute, the dissolution of Parliament must take place 25 working days before the proposed polling day. This means that the dissolution of Parliament took place at 00:01 on Wednesday 6 November 2019. The Prime Minister would normally see the Queen the day before in order to formally ask her to dissolve Parliament.
The House may prorogue a few days before dissolution; however, it will be suspended rather than formally dissolved. The Queen formally prorogues Parliament on the advice of the Privy Council and prorogation usually takes the form of an announcement on behalf of the Queen, read in the House of Lords.
The prorogation announcement normally outlines the major bills which have been passed during the session and after the announcement both Houses are officially prorogued until the State Opening of Parliament.
House of Commons
Once Parliament has been dissolved, all the seats in the House of Commons become vacant. This means that there are no MPs until after the general election. All business in the House comes to an end.
House of Lords
As Members of the House of Lords are appointed rather than elected, they keep their positions. Business of the House comes also comes to an end when Parliament is dissolved.
Unlike MPs, Lords can still access Parliament during the pre-election period.
Parliament and Government are two separate entities. Ministers retain their positions, titles and briefs after dissolution.
Once dissolution has taken place, any bills which have not completed their journey through Parliament and not received Royal Assent will fall. In order to prevent this, and to aid the passage of important legislation, a ‘wash-up’ period will take place before dissolution where the Government and Opposition will agree on speeding up the scrutiny process on certain pieces of legislation.
Once the Government reaches an agreement with the Official Opposition, the House will be asked to approve the wash-up timetable.
Purdah is the period immediately before elections or referendums. There are restrictions on the activity of civil servants and Ministers around using government to initiate policy and using resources for party political matters. Purdah starts on the day Parliament is dissolved and lasts until after Polling Day.
Purdah restrictions are not regulated by law but are governed by conventions which are based upon the Civil Service Code and the guidance is issued to civil servants ahead of the election.
Newly Elected Speaker
On 4 November, two days before Parliament was dissolved Lindsay Hoyle was elected as the new Speaker of the House of Commons. The Speaker, like everyone else, ceases to be an MP once Parliament is dissolved.
This means Lindsay Hoyle will seek re-election in Chorley. He will be listed as ‘Speaker’ on the ballot paper rather than Labour, his previous political party. This is because the independent nature of the Speaker’s role.
It is customary for the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and Labour not to stand candidates in the seat contested by the Speaker. They’re not expected to stand anyone in this election. The Brexit Party have also announced they won’t be standing. Though their former candidate is standing in Chorley. The Green Party do not observe the tradition and are also standing a candidate.