What is the State Opening of Parliament?
State Opening of Parliament marks the start of the parliamentary year and is the main ceremonial event of the parliamentary calendar - setting out the Government's agenda for the coming session.
For over 500 years, State Opening has served as a symbolic reminder of the unity of Parliament's three parts: the Sovereign; the House of Lords; and the House of Commons.
The State Opening ceremony takes place in the House of Lords Chamber but it is not a sitting of the House of Lords.
When is the State Opening of Parliament?
State Opening takes place on the first day of a new parliamentary session or shortly after a general election. The next State Opening will be on 18 May 2016.
The Fixed Term Parliament Act, which sets out new rules on the timing of general elections, received Royal Assent (became law) on 15 September 2011. This means that the next general election will be in May 2020.
What's in the Queen's Speech at State Opening?The speech read by the Queen in the House of Lords Chamber, outlines the Government's programme of legislation and policies for the coming year - the speech is written by the Government and not by Her Majesty.
The Lords spends around 60 per cent of its time considering legislation - passing over 3,000 amendments in a normal session - the Queen's Speech, in many respects, sets Parliament's agenda for the year.
During State Opening, the House of Lords Chamber is full of people in red robes and other official and national costume - is it always like this?
The State Opening of Parliament is a state occasion. It's the one day in the year when Members of the Lords wear red parliamentary robes. Every other day they dress in normal day clothes.
Members who do not own their robes hire them for the occasion.
While the ceremony is symbolically important, it should not be confused with the day to day work of the Lords. The State Opening of Parliament is a ceremonial occasion and not a formal sitting of the House of Lords.
Who attends the State Opening ceremony in the Lords Chamber?
Members of the Lords are present but also ambassadors and high commissioners - often wearing their national dress - and judges from the High Court and the Court of Appeal as well as the Justices of the Supreme Court.
MPs from the Commons attend at the entrance to the Lords Chamber - often referred to as the 'bar' because of the rail across the entrance to the Chamber. Members of the Royal Procession and others gather around the throne.
What happens in the Lords after the State Opening ceremony?
The State Opening takes place in the morning. After the ceremony is over, the Lords meets for its first meeting of the session (with only Members of the Lords in the Chamber and not wearing robes).
Members of the Lords then spend the next five or so days debating the content of the Queen's Speech. After the five days of debate on the Queen's Speech, Bills start to get introduced in the Lords and it begins its year's work of debating, amending and passing legislation, and holding the government to account.
Can I attend the State Opening?
Members of the public can access Parliament in the afternoon – when the ceremony is finished and normal business resumes.
Roads around the Houses of Parliament are subject to closure before the ceremony.
Can I watch the State Opening?
Yes. State Opening is broadcast live on Parliament's Video and Audio pages and on television and radio.
Can I read the Queen's Speeches from previous State Openings?
Please note that this is the complete list of the Queen's Speech available electronically from this site. If you are interested in finding earlier editions, please contact the Parliamentary Archives
When will the next State Opening of Parliament take place?
The next State Opening is scheduled for May 2016.