The UK is divided into 650 areas called constituencies. During an election everyone eligible to cast a vote in a constituency selects one candidate to be their MP. The candidate who gets the most votes becomes the MP for that area until the next election.
At a general election, all constituencies become vacant and a Member of Parliament is elected for each from a list of candidates standing for election. General elections happen every five years.
If an MP dies or retires, a by-election is held in that constituency to find a new MP for that area.
Most current MPs are members of one of the three main political parties in the UK - Conservative, Labour or the Scottish Nationalist Party. Other MPs represent smaller parties or are independent of a political party.
To become an MP representing a main political party a candidate must be authorised to do so by the party's nominating officer. They must then win the most votes in the constituency.
The UK Parliament has MPs from areas across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In addition, there is a Parliament in Scotland, a National Assembly in Wales and a National Assembly in Northern Ireland.
Separate elections are held for these devolved political bodies (which have been granted powers on a regional level that the UK Parliament was formerly responsible for) - candidates who win seats in these elections do not become MPs in the UK Parliament.
The UK public elects Members of Parliament (MPs) to represent their interests and concerns in the House of Commons. MPs consider and can propose new laws as well as raising issues that matter to you in the House. This includes asking government ministers questions about current issues including those which affect local constituents.
MPs split their time between working in Parliament itself, working in the constituency that elected them and working for their political party.
Some MPs from the governing party (or parties) become government ministers with specific responsibilities in certain areas, such as Health or Defence. These MPs do not stop working for their constituency and, whatever their role in Government or Parliament, will still hold regular surgeries to help their constituents.
When Parliament is sitting (meeting), MPs generally spend their time working in the House of Commons. This can include raising issues affecting their constituents, attending debates and voting on new laws. This can either be by asking a question of a government minister on your behalf or supporting and highlighting particular campaigns which local people feel strongly about.
Most MPs are also members of committees, which look at issues in detail, from government policy and new laws, to wider topics like human rights.
In their constituency, MPs often hold a 'surgery' in their office, where local people can come along to discuss any matters that concern them.
MPs also attend functions, visit schools and businesses and generally try to meet as many people as possible. This gives MPs further insight and context into issues they may discuss when they return to Westminster.
MPs can assist their constituents in a variety of ways, from making private enquiries on your behalf, to raising matters publicly in the House of Commons.
Keeping the issue private, your MP might write to the relevant department or official, send a letter to the appropriate Minister or make a personal appointment to discuss the issue. These steps can often go a long way to providing a solution.
Your MP may decide to make the issue public by raising it in the House of Commons, where it will be officially recorded, and could potentially come to the attention of the press and public.
Outside Parliament, and at the discretion of the individual MP, you could request that your MP speak at an event concerning the issue, pledge their support to a campaign or write to the local media on your behalf.
People choose their MPs by voting in general elections. These elections are crucial because they decide who will be in government and give everyone a say in how the country will be run in the future. The party with the most MPs forms the government.
Elections work best when everyone takes part and votes. If you don’t vote, you are having no say in issues as important as the NHS, schools, how much tax you pay and how we look after the environment.
Almost everyone in Britain aged 18 and over is qualified to vote. However, you must register before you can do so. Make sure you are registered to vote by clicking here
I can organise visits to Parliament for schools, groups and individuals who live in my North Tyneside constituency - just contact my office.
To give you a sense of the history of the Parliamentary Estate visit: The Palace of Westminster, more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament, looks very different from the medieval palace which once stood here. What happened to these old medieval buildings?