Dissolution 2015 – general information

What is ‘Dissolution’?

Dissolution is the official term for the end of a Parliament.  A Parliament can last for up to five years and is dissolved by Royal Proclamation followed by a general election.  The Prime Minister may call a general election before the end of the five year term and he or she asks the Monarch to grant a dissolution.

Further general information on dissolution can be found from the following link: http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/elections-and-voting/

How will dissolution affect Members’ staff?

Parliament will be dissolved at 5pm on Monday 30 March 2015.   Once Parliament is dissolved, you no longer work for an MP.  Obviously this will have a major disruptive effect on your day-to-day work.

First of all, right now, go and print this document: Dissolution Guidance for Members’ Staff.  You will need to read this carefully and save it for the whole of the dissolution period, as you will need to refer to it.

From 5pm on the day of dissolution, there are no longer any Members of Parliament, and they may not use that title for the whole of the dissolution period.  All those who are re-standing become Parliamentary candidates.   For staff in Westminster this means that all your Parliamentary privileges will be removed, your pass will be disabled, your office will be locked, the email and phone systems will be disabled, and the Library will be off limits.   You will be allowed to onto the premises, escorted by an Attendant, but only to collect ‘papers and post’.  You will not be allowed to carry out any work on the premises or use any of the facilities.   You will not be allowed to return to your office until the day after Polling Day.  For constituency staff, it’s a little easier.  You will not have access to the Parliamentary intranet or your emails and you will not be permitted to use any House stationery, including letterheads and pre-paid envelopes.  However, you will still have access to your office.

Your salary, and what you can and cannot do:

During the period of the election, you’ll continue to be paid by Parliament.  This means that you cannot carry out any party political work during your normal working hours.

Realistically, particularly if your role is Westminster-based and you are not intending to spend the whole period in a state of limbo, this means that there are four main options open to you, which you may want to mix and match.  Do make time to sit down with your boss before the election is called, to work out what you will be doing:

  • You can carry out work not connected with the election campaign, such as research, office-keeping and constituency casework.  This cannot be done on the Parliamentary estate so either means an extended visit to the constituency office or working from home.
  • You can take annual leave, making sure that you keep a note of it ‘in case of challenge’.  Then what you do with your holiday time is up to you.
  • You can take unpaid leave: again, what you then choose to do with your own time is up to you.  Your boss must inform IPSA of this in advance (i.e. before the election is called) so that your pay can be stopped for the relevant period.  This will also affect your pension contributions and the childcare voucher scheme.
  • You can take time off in lieu.

There is more information about this issue in the Dissolution Guide for Members’ Staff which we strongly recommend that you read.  You should also consult the IPSA web pages on the General Election and the IPSA guide for staff.

Particular points for Westminster staff

Think about what to take from the Westminster office: In the commotion of the pre-election period it’s easy to put this off, but it’s highly advisable to put some time aside before dissolution to gather together everything you might conceivably need during the next few weeks.  You will be relieved to hear that you don’t need to clear the office completely, but you should make sure anything valuable is locked away.  You should clear your desk and all the surfaces as your office will be cleaned whilst you’re away.

Going to the constituency?  If you are planning to spend some time in the constituency over the election, and do not normally live there, make sure that you have found somewhere to stay in advance.  A word of advice at this point: it’s really not a good idea to stay with your boss during the campaign.  This is a period of high stress, high intensity and often high emotion.  Parliamentary candidates will have so little time to themselves during this time that they will need their space when they can get it – and you will need yours.  Try to make sure that you are staying somewhere where you can go into your room, close the door and shut the world out if you need to.

Redirecting email: The Parliamentary ICT accounts and email access will be suspended from 5pm on the day of dissolution.  You will be able to redirect your emails to a personal email account, and once the Election has been called, PICT will send round instructions on setting this up.  It is advisable to make a backup of your Outlook contacts and personal folders that you can burn to CD or copy to an external hard drive.  If your Member is standing down, your Parliamentary Network and email accounts will remain active until 5pm on the day before the General Election.

Computers: You can take any centrally-provided laptops away with you , but not the PCs.  The U and S drives will be disabled, so make sure you copy off anything you need from your hard drive.  NB: no machines provided for Parliamentary purposes can be used for political activities unless rental is paid – see below under ‘other points to note’ for more detail.

Phones and fax:  Any diverts to external lines will be cancelled.  The voicemail system will be disabled so that people cannot leave messages.  However, you will be able to record a message explaining that the office is closed for the duration of the election period, and provide an alternative contact number.  Remember to unplug your fax machine, too, if you have one.   If you use the RightFax service, this will also cease.

Post: You can call the Members’ Post Office on x4369 to arrange for all of the mail to be redirected to an external address (e.g. the constituency office) for the duration of dissolution.

Make sure you return any outstanding library books, DVDs etc, or your boss may be required to pay a replacement fee.

Room bookings: After the election, many of the meeting and committee rooms will be used for housing new MPs until they get offices.  Therefore, if you make any bookings ahead of the election for post-election dates, hold them lightly.  The advice is to contact the Events Team on x3090 after the election, to find out which rooms will be available.

Functions: “Members may not use the reserved catering facilities during the dissolution period. All functions booked during the period in the name of a Member are automatically cancelled. Functions booked by Members who are returned at the election will stand from the day following the election.”

“If a Member is not returned to Parliament the booking can be transferred to the new Member. If an event is not transferred to the new Member and does not take place any deposit will be given back to the person paying the bill.”

Gymnasium: membership will be suspended for the period of dissolution until the day after Polling Day. The Gym can freeze membership for this period, and therefore not take payment, but notification by the 20th of the previous month is required.

Travel Office: The services of the Travel Office will not be available during dissolution.

Parliamentary Recording Unit: The Parliamentary Recording Unit is open throughout the dissolution period. Please contact the Director of Parliamentary Broadcasting on 020 7219 5849 or pru@parliament.uk if you require advice on how broadcasting material may be used in Election literature, party political broadcasts and on your websites.

Particular Points for Constituency staff:

If your job mainly involves casework, this is likely to continue during the election period, as your boss can continue responding to constituency casework. However, there are a number of issues you will need to consider:

Computers: you can still use the computers in the constituency office for casework during dissolution but access to the U and S drives will be suspended from 5pm on the day of dissolution, so make sure you copy anything you need from those drives beforehand.

Email and internet: if you have a Parliamentary email account, it will be disabled from 5pm on the day of dissolution: see above for redirection of email and backing up your Outlook contacts and folders.  All remote access to accounts on the Parliamentary network will be withdrawn from 5pm on the day of dissolution.  You will still be able to use parliamentary-provided internet broadband for constituency related work only .

IT Support: where urgent casework is being conducted and a fault with centrally provided equipment arises, essential support from PICT, sufficient to allow the urgent casework to continue will be provided.

Use of stationery, postage and letterheads: from dissolution until after polling day, your boss cannot use the title “Member of Parliament” or the House of Commons address.  Neither can they use official Commons stationery or envelopes.  This means you will need to use a different letterhead, using the words “[Party] candidate for [Constituency]” (or similar) and you will have to buy in a stash of plain stationery, envelopes and stamps, the cost of which your boss can subsequently claim back.

MP Hotlines: to the best of our knowledge, candidates will be able to contact the hotlines in the usual manner.  However, they must provide written proof of consent to act, otherwise all replies will be sent directly to the constituents and not to the candidates.  We will let you know more as soon as we have the information.  Please see the more specific guidance on our main dissolution page.

Online Presence

All MPs’ websites must display the following disclaimer: ‘This website was established whilst I was a Member of Parliament.  As Parliament has been dissolved, there are no Members of Parliament until after the election on 7 May 2015.’

If your website is funded from the Communications Allowance, or has the letters “MP” in the URL, then it must be frozen for the duration of dissolution.  This means the website may remain online, but that no new content should be added except the disclaimer, contact details and/or a link to an alternative web site.

Social Media Accounts: Social media accounts referring to your Member as an MP do not need to be renamed, as long as they bear the disclaimer above.  However, if you do wish to rename a Twitter account (whilst reserving the existing username), or a Facebook account, the Web & Intranet service can provide advice on 0207 219 2010 or webmaster@parliament.uk.

Using IT for non-parliamentary purposes: If your PC, laptop, tablet or printer is on loan from PICT and you want to use it for non-Parliamentary work during dissolution, Members can rent the equipment and declare the cost as part of their election expenses.  There is a schedule of charges available on the intranet.  PICT will be contacting Members in March to advise them of the machines currently on loan.

Constituent visits to Parliament

Gallery tickets: All bookings of Admission Orders, including the automatic allocation of seats in the Strangers’ Gallery, will be cancelled as soon as Parliament is dissolved.  Bookings already made for educational parties on days after the House re-assembles will stand.  No further bookings for the galleries may be made until after the results of the General Election are known.

Tours: You cannot escort or sponsor anybody on the Visitor Route or to the Elizabeth Tower during the period of dissolution.  You cannot make advance bookings with the Tours Office for Member tours or Elizabeth Tower tours during the period of dissolution; all Member tours will be suspended from Monday 30 March – Friday 8 May inclusive.  Upon return of the House after the Election the Tours Office will notify new Members of constituency groups booked in by their predecessors so that they may decide whether they wish to meet them.  Please note that bookings for Elizabeth Tower tours can only be confirmed once your office has provided the necessary details for your visitors to obtain security clearance. If this information has not been submitted by 30 March the tour cannot be confirmed and will be cancelled.

The above arrangements do not apply to tours sponsored by the Education Service.

Newly elected Members may escort guests along the Visitor Route which is open the day after Polling Day but tours falling within the period of State Opening, including preparation time, will be curtailed or cancelled.

If your boss is standing down

If your boss is not standing for re-election, guidance starts on p.19 of the dissolution arrangements.

It includes information on salaries (which cease on the day of the election), pension arrangements, redundancy payments and the winding up allowance.   The Employee Assistance Program, managed by Health Assured, can provide confidential support services about both work and personal matters.  They can be
contacted on 0800 030 5182.

You will be allowed access to the Parliamentary network and your email account until 5pm on the day before the election.  You will need to remove all data from Westminster-based computers within five working days after dissolution and from other computers, e.g. in the constituency, by the day before polling day.  You will have until five working days after dissolution to clear your office.

The guidance also contains information on data protection and destroying or passing on casework records.

If your boss is not returned

Sadly, this eventuality has to be considered and there is guidance from p.25 of the dissolution arrangements.  It covers redundancy payments and the winding up allowance.   Email accounts will be re-enabled for five working days after the Election and former Members and their staff will have five working days to clear their offices and remove data from their computers.  The computers will be removed from the Westminster office after five working days, and arrangements will be made to collect any centrally-provided machines from other locations.  However, ICT equipment in the Member’s home or constituency office can continue to be used for ‘winding-up’ until 8 July.

The House services will try to offer as much help as they can at such a difficult time.