The date of the State Opening of Parliament, which signals the formal start of a new parliamentary session, has been announced by the Commons Leader. A Parliament is the period of parliamentary time between one general election and the next.
The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 sets the interval between general elections at five years. Each Parliament is usually divided into five parliamentary years called ‘sessions’, beginning and ending in the spring.
The last State Opening of Parliament took place on Tuesday 11 May 2021, at the start of the 2021-22 parliamentary session. The ceremonies are marked by the Queen’s Speech, which sets out the government’s agenda for the upcoming session.
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Parliament is set to be prorogued – temporarily shut down – in the days leading up to the event.
The State Opening is full of tradition, with practices – including the delivery of a speech by the monarch – which can be traced back as far as the 16th century. This year, the event will take place just weeks before four days of celebrations – from June 2-5 – to mark the Queen’s 70 years on the throne.
So, what actually happens during the State Opening of Parliament and why does the Queen give a speech?
When is the Queen’s Speech in 2022?
This year, the Queen’s Speech will take place on Tuesday, 10 May 2022. Commons Leader Mark Spencer confirmed the date in a statement to MPs.
He said: “As is usual, the current session of Parliament will be prorogued ahead of the Queen’s speech, and this time will be used to enable logistical and security preparations for the state opening of Parliament.
“The likely date of extension will be confirmed in due course.”
What goes on at a State Opening?
State Opening is the main ceremonial event of the parliamentary calendar, usually attracting large crowds and a significant television and online audience. Typically it begins with the Queen’s procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster, escorted by the Household Cavalry.
The Queen arrives at Sovereign’s Entrance and proceeds to the Robing Room. Wearing the Imperial State Crown and the Robe of State, she leads the Royal Procession through the Royal Gallery, filled with 600 guests, to the chamber of the House of Lords.
The House of Lords official known as Black Rod is sent to summon the Commons. The doors to the Commons chamber are shut in their face: a practice dating back to the Civil War, symbolizing the Commons’ independence from the monarchy.
Black Rod strikes the door three times before it is opened. Members of the House of Commons then follow Black Rod and the Commons Speaker to the Lords chamber, standing at the opposite end to the Throne, to listen to the speech.
Why does the Queen give a speech?
The Queen’s Speech sets out the government’s agenda for the coming session, outlining proposed policies and legislation. It is the only regular occasion when the three constituent parts of Parliament – the Sovereign, the House of Lords and the House of Commons – meet.
Although the Queen reads the Speech, it is actually written by the government. A No 10 spokesman said: “The Queen’s speech will set out the Government’s agenda for the next session and its plans to grow our economy, cut the cost of living, make our streets safer and clear the Covid backlogs.
“The Queen’s speech will provide the leadership needed in challenging times to level up opportunities and employment in all parts of the United Kingdom.”
Will the Queen be attending in person?
The Queen has had to miss a number of her usual engagements in recent weeks due to health problems.
Buckingham Palace has yet to confirm whether the Queen will attend the state opening or whether the Prince of Wales will go in her place. A Palace spokesman said: “Attendance will be confirmed in due course.”
The Queen has opened Parliament all but two times during her reign. The exceptions were in 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant with Andrew and then Edward.
What happens after the speech?
After the speech has finished and once the Queen leaves, a new parliamentary session starts and Parliament gets back to work. Members of both Houses debate the content of the speech and agree on an ‘Address in Reply to Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech’.
Each House continues the debate over the planned legislative program for several days, looking at different subject areas. The Queen’s Speech is voted on by the Commons, but rarely in the Lords, according to Parliament.uk.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.