Page last updated at 14:25 GMT, Friday, 31 October 2008

A writ is a form of legal document which authorises the holding of a general election or by-election.

At the dissolution of Parliament, writs are issued by the monarch authorising the holding of an election in each constituency.

This sets in motion the electoral timetable for a general election.

In the case of a by-election the writ is issued on a warrant from the speaker.

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