State Opening of Parliament

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05 March 2012

The State Opening of Parliament is set to take place on Wednesday 9 May and marks the formal start of the next parliamentary session. The primary purpose of this colourful tradition is to set out the government's legislative agenda to both Houses of Parliament in the Queen's Speech.

The date when the current parliamentary session ends prior has not yet been announced.

State Opening ceremony

The ceremony brings together the constituent parts of Parliament: the monarch, the Lords and the Commons – a symbolic reminder of Parliament’s unity.

As a symbol of the Commons' independence, the door to their chamber is slammed in the face of Black Rod – an official who acts as the messenger of the Queen whenever MPs are required in the House of Lords – and not opened until he has knocked on the door three times with his staff of office: the Black Rod.

The Queen’s Speech

Although the speech is delivered by the Queen in the House of Lords chamber, the content of the speech is entirely drawn up by the government and approved by the Cabinet. The final words of the speech are always 'other measures will be laid before you.' This allows the government to introduce other laws as required. No business can take place in the House of Lords or the House of Commons before the speech is read that day.

Back to business

After the Queen’s Speech, both Houses start to debate the proposed programme of new laws and policies.

The debates will take place over five days in both Houses. Each day a different area is discussed.

Further information

Following the passage of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011, future State Openings are also expected to be held in May rather than November.

More news on: Parliament, government and politics, Parliament, House of Lords news, Parliamentary procedure, Lords news, Parliamentary business

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