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On Tuesday 25 May, Queen Elizabeth II will play a central role in the State Opening of Parliament, which takes place in the chamber of the House of Lords.
In one of the most colourful events of the parliamentary calendar, the Queen formally commences the new Parliament and reads the Queen's Speech. This speech is written by the Government and sets out its legislative agenda for the coming year, although it includes the words "other measures will be laid before you" to allow for the Government to introduce other legislation as required.
Before the speech is read, no business can take place in the House of Lords or the House of Commons.
The parliamentary year, known as a session, usually covers 12 months and begins with a State Opening in November or December. However, the 2010-2011 session will be unusually long, because of the early start following the General Election in May.
The 2009-2010 session was opened on 18 November 2009 and ended with the prorogation of Parliament on Thursday 8 April 2010.
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