Parliament has dissolved for the general election - so what now? Key questions answered

Parliament has dissolved - so what now? Credit: PA

With the general election battle officially underway, here are some key questions and answers about the dissolution of parliament:

Parliament has dissolved - Is David Cameron still in charge?Yes, he retains all his normal duties and powers in the period between dissolution and the formation of the new administration.

What about MPs?

  • They automatically revert to being members of the public and lose all their parliamentary privileges

  • They are barred from using the title MP - including on websites and in Twitter handles

  • From 5pm they lose access to facilities in the Palace of Westminster

Why don't Government ministers lose their jobs and departments?

Parliament and Government are two separate institutions. The Prime Minister is appointed by the Queen, and she appoints ministers on her Prime Minister's advice. Constitutionally, the appointments are independent of the status of MP.

The ministers are required to "observe discretion in initiating any new action of a continuing or long-term character".

Alistair Darling negotiated a deal as chancellor the day before the coalition was formed in 2010 Credit: PA

However, they have been known to breach this protocol. In 2010, Labour's Alistair Darling went to Brussels as chancellor after the 2010 general election and negotiated a euro bail-out deal exposing Britain to potential liabilities running into billions of pounds. A day later, the coalition was formed and Mr Darling was out of office, but the deal remained in force.

David Cameron would be expected to break off the campaign trail in the event of an international crisis Credit: PA

What happens if there's an international crisis?

The Prime Minister would be expected to break off from campaigning to deal with international issues in the normal way.

There is a summit of foreign ministers of the G7 group of major international powers in Luebeck, Germany, on April 14, which Philip Hammond would be expected to attend as Foreign Secretary.

What is purdah?

It refers to the current period, between the dissolution of Parliament and the general election, when civil servants are prevented from undertaking any activities that could call into question their political impartiality. They must also ensure public resources are not used for party political purposes.

When will we have a new Parliament?

Successful candidates in the May 7 election are declared MPs immediately after the votes are counted.

They will take their seats at Westminster from May 18, when the Queen has summoned a new parliament. But if the result is as close as many commentators expect, there is no certainty that a new government will be in place by this point.