Ceremonies and public events today
Westminster Hall is used mainly for occasions of state and important ceremonies today: a rule from between the wars states that events should have a legal, parliamentary or national significance.
The Hall is used by the two Houses of Parliament to present ceremonial Addresses to the Crown on important public occasions. The Queen replies with a speech. These have included the presentation of Addresses to the Queen during her Silver Jubilee in 1977, Golden Jubilee in 2002 and Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
Westminster Hall is also used to commemorate anniversaries, such as:
- the 300th anniversary of the Glorious Revolution in 1988
- the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in 1995
- the 25th and 50th anniversaries of the founding of the United Nations in 1970 and 1995
- the 700th and 750th anniversaries of Simon de Montfort's Parliament in 1965 and 2015
The opening ceremonies for conferences of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the North Atlantic Assembly have also been held in the Hall. On these occasions, the Hall is brightly lit and decorated with flowers and coloured hangings.
A number of foreign heads of state or government have addressed both Houses in the Hall: President Barack Obama in 2011, Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, President Nelson Mandela in 1996, President Charles de Gaulle in 1960 and President Albert Lebrun in 1939.
The Hall is also used for public exhibitions. Between January and May 2008, an exhibition on the history of the hall included fragments of the King's Table, found during an archaeological excavation in 2006.
Other exhibitions have commemorated the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta in 2015, the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot in 2005, the Hall's 900th anniversary in 1999 and the centenary of Gladstone's death in 1998.
Lord Great Chamberlain
The responsibility for Westminster Hall is shared by the Lord Great Chamberlain (on behalf of the Queen), the Lord Speaker and the Speaker of the House of Commons. Events in the Hall are organised by Black Rod, the Secretary to the Lord Great Chamberlain.
For occasions not requiring seating, it has been estimated that 6,000 can be accommodated in the body of the Hall and 650 on its steps and platform.
Page last updated September 2015.