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Parliament is dissolved automatically under provisions in the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, 25 working days before a general election. The Act provides that parliamentary general elections usually take place every five years on the first Thursday in May. It also provides for early general elections if either the House of Commons votes for an early general election or following the failure of the House to agree a vote of confidence in a new government within 14 days of a vote of no confidence in the government holding office.

In the case of an early general election, under the 2011 Act, the election day is set by Royal Proclamation, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The date of dissolution can then be calculated.

Prior to the Act, dissolution was a personal prerogative of the Queen. The Act has replaced the prerogative.

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 set the date of first general election, after it received Royal Assent, as 7 May 2015. Accordingly the 2010 Parliament was dissolved on 30 March 2015.

Under the provisions of the Act, the next general election was scheduled to take place on 7 May 2020. However, on 19 April 2017, in accordance with the Act, the House of Commons agreed a motion “That there shall be an early parliamentary general election”. On 18 April 2017, the Prime Minister announced that she planned to call an early election on 8 June 2017. A proclamation, announcing that the general election would take place on 8 June 2017, was issued on 25 April 2017, and Parliament was dissolved on 3 May 2017.

Following the general election on 8 June 2017, the next general election was scheduled to take place on the first Thursday in May 2022 – 5 May 2022, with Parliament being dissolved on 28 March 2022.

The 2011 Act procedures were not used to set the date of the 2019 general election. On 31 October 2019, the Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019 received Royal Assent. It set the date of 12 December 2019 for an early general election. It provided that it was to be “treated as a polling day appointed under … the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011”. Consequently, Parliament will be dissolved on Wednesday 6 November 2019.

Following the general election on 12 December 2019, the next general election will be scheduled to take place on the first Thursday of May 2024 – 2 May 2024. Parliament will be dissolved on Tuesday 26 March 2024.

This Note also sets out the previous procedure for the dissolution of Parliament and notes that reforms to the previous procedure were proposed in the green paper The Governance of Britain in July 2007.

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