You are here:

House of Commons Library

UK by-elections held more than 3 months after vacancy

Published Tuesday, July 25, 2017

This list notes UK by-elections that have taken place more than three months after the vacancy.

Jump to full report >>

A by-election takes place in the House of Commons when a seat becomes vacant, either through the Member of Parliament dying or resigning the seat. This list notes by-elections that have taken place more than three months after the vacancy.

Moving the writ for a by-election

A writ must be moved in the House of Commons to trigger each by-election that takes place. It is customary for a member of the party which previously held the seat to move the writ. Normally, this takes place not long after the seat becomes vacant, so that the seat’s constituents are not left without representation in the House for longer than necessary. Occasionally, however, there may be a significant delay between the vacancy and the by-election, or the vacancy and the issuing of the writ.

It is also possible for the Speaker to issue a writ during a recess period. When this occurs, the Speaker informs the House when it next sits.

Must a writ be moved?

There is nothing in statute law or in Standing Orders obliging the House to move a writ for a by-election. It could choose to leave the seat without representation until the next General Election (General Elections must be held every five years). One of the by-elections listed, North-West Leicestershire, was left vacant until the 2010 General Election some five months later.

Cancelation of a by-election

There is no statutory provision for the cancellation of a by-election if a general election is called that supersedes the date of the by-election. It is for the acting returning officer to cancel the by-election. Following a snap general election in 1923 the returning officer, acting on advice from the Home Office, cancelled the outstanding Warwick and Leamington by-election. More recently, the Manchester Gorton by-election was superseded by the 2017 snap general election. The House passed a motion on 20 April 2017 confirming that the by-election writ for Manchester Gorton should be superseded [HC Deb 624 c826].

Further information

UK parliamentary by-elections since 1945 lists the number of by-elections by session and by parliament in Table 1. Table 2 provides the results of each by-election since 2005 together with the reason for the by-election.


Please send comments or corrections to: Parliamentary Information Lists Editor, Parliament and Constitution Centre, House of Commons, SW1A 0AA.

Suggestions for new lists welcomed.


Commons Briefing papers SN06576

Author: Sarah Priddy

Topics: Elections, House of Commons

Share this page

Stay up to date

  • Subscribe to RSS feed Subscribe to Email alerts Commons Briefing papers

House of Commons Library

The House of Commons Library provides research, analysis and information services for MPs and their staff.