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Resignation from the House of Commons: House of Commons Background Paper

Published Thursday, July 18, 2013

Under a Resolution of the House of 2 March 1624, Members of Parliament cannot directly resign their seat. The only means by which a Member's seat may be vacated during the lifetime of a Parliament are through death; expulsion by resolution of the House; or disqualification, either by the voiding of the Member’s election or through accepting one of a number of offices which are incompatible with membership of the House of Commons. Members who resign in this way may contest the subsequent by-election.

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Under a Resolution of the House of 2 March 1624, Members of Parliament cannot directly resign their seat. The only means by which a Member's seat may be vacated during the lifetime of a Parliament are through death; expulsion by resolution of the House; or disqualification, either by the voiding of the Member’s election or through accepting one of a number of offices which are incompatible with membership of the House of Commons. Members who resign in this way may contest the subsequent by-election.

A Member who wishes merely to resign their seat must be appointed to one of two paid offices of the Crown, retained from antiquity for this purpose only. These are the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds and the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead. Other such offices have been used for this purpose in the past, and some of them have carried duties and salaries: this is not the case today.

In the past, Ministers were required to re-contest their seats following their appointment. This was in recognition of the possibility that being a Minister of the Crown – i.e. holding an office provided by the monarch – might constitute a conflict of interest with the duties of a Member of Parliament. This is now regarded as a hypothetical possibility only.

Today, MEPs may not be members of their national legislatures, but there is no such ban for those who are elected to devolved bodies or local authorities.

Commons Briefing papers SN06395

Author: Mark Sandford

Topics: House of Commons, Members of Parliament, Parliament

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