Documents to download

Why can’t a Member resign their seat?

Under a Resolution of the House of 2 March 1623, Members of Parliament cannot directly resign their seats. Death, disqualification, elevation to Peerage, dissolution or expulsion are the only causes by which an MPs’ seat can be vacated. Therefore, a Member wishing to resign has to be appointed to a paid office of the Crown, which automatically disqualifies the MP from holding a seat in the House of Commons.

There are currently two nominal offices of profit under the Crown:

  • Crown Steward and Bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham;
  • Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.

MPs can be appointed to these offices during a parliamentary recess, but the Speaker cannot issue a writ for the ensuing by-election until the House is sitting.

Sometimes a vacancy towards the end of a Parliament may not be filled until the General Election.

Recording disqualification of Members

In many cases, the disqualification of an MP (by acceptance of an office of profit under the Crown) is not recorded directly in the Common Journal.

It has only recently become practice to record the appointment of an MP to such an office in the Journal. Prior to this, disqualification can only be inferred from the writ moved for the resulting by-election. Disqualification of Members was first noted in the Commons Journal from the 1985-86 parliamentary session.

Further information

See Erskine May: Chiltern Hundreds and Manor of Northstead for statutory basis and precedents.

Further information on the current procedure and its historical context can be found in Library briefing Resignation from the House of Commons.

Parliament: facts and figures

This series of publications contains data on various subjects relating to Parliament and Government. Topics include legislation, MPs, select committees, debates, divisions and Parliamentary procedure.


Please send any comments or corrections to

Documents to download

Related posts