State Opening of Parliament

09 May 2012

The State Opening of Parliament took place on Wednesday 9 May 2012. State Opening marks the formal start of the new 2012-13 parliamentary session. The primary purpose of this colourful state occasion is to set out the Government's legislative agenda in the Queen’s Speech.

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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.

Her Majesty The Queen will arrive at the Sovereign's Entrance at about 11.15am and will proceed to the Robing Room, where she will put on the Imperial State Crown and parliamentary robe. A procession then leads through the Royal Gallery to the Chamber of the House of Lords, where the Queen takes the Throne.

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

Members of the House of Commons follow Black Rod and the Commons Speaker to the Lords Chamber and stand behind the Bar of the House of Lords (at the opposite end of the Chamber from the Throne) to hear the Queen's Speech.

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.

Debating the Queen's Speech

After the Queen's Speech, both Houses start to debate the proposed programme of new laws and policies. The debates take place over five days in both Houses, including the afternoon of the Speech, from 9 May to 16 May. The debate on the first day is a general one, with the following day's debates on particular subjects. The Queen's Speech is voted on by the Commons, but no vote is taken in the Lords.

Find out what's on in both Houses on 9 May and beyond:

Further information

Image: Parliamentary copyright 

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