Today is the State Opening of Parliament. This means a new parliamentary year begins, and why the Queen outlines the new laws the government will try to make official over the next five years. The tradition of the Queen making a speech at the beginning of Parliament goes back to the 16th century. If it ain’t broke… As we’ve just had an election, the speech is even more important as it outlines David Cameron’s priorities as Prime Minister of an all-Conservative government.
The Queen usually makes a speech every year at the opening of Parliament. There have been a few exceptions to this convention in the past – twice when the Queen was pregnant, and also in 2011 when the government at the time (the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition) decided they needed two years to put their plans into effect, and by that we mean writing.
You betcha. First, the Queen travels from Buckingham Palace in an ornate horse drawn carriage followed by the Household Cavalry. Major points for style and also for being kind to the environment.
When she arrives a House of Lords official goes to get the MPs but the door is closed in his face. This isn’t just banter; it’s meant to show the separation between the Head of State (queen), and the government.
At around 11.30AM the Queen, now wearing robes and the royal crown will be handed the speech, written on parchment (posh word for paper). Queenie sits on the throne in the House of Lords and the commoners, meaning members of the House of Commons, come to listen to the speech. Real life commoners, meaning members of the public, aren’t allowed to come to the State Opening. Invited guests only: So far, so regal. The Queen’s Speech is written by government officials, but is signed off by the Queen before the opening of Parliament.
At the moment all we know are rumours. Bills expected to be in the Queen’s Speech include a referendum (where we all get to vote) on the UK’s membership of the European Union, new laws to reduce the number of immigrants coming into the country, and more powers to be given to Scotland and large English cities e.g. Manchester.
The Tories also want to get rid of the Human Rights Act , create a 7 day NHS and to give MPs a chance to take away the Hunting Ban – foxes beware! You can also expect new powers for the security services with something called the Communications and Data Bill. This means officials will have more access to messages sent via social media and calls made over the internet. People are calling it the “Snooper’s Charter” and people can’t agree on whether it’s a good idea….
The Queen goes back to Buckingham Palace and the MPs get lunch after their hard morning’s work sitting listening to a speech.
In the afternoon the Prime Minister then addresses the House of Commons and the MPs get to do what they do best – debate.
They vote on the speech – though the vote is mainly symbolic. In the past if MPs voted against the bill it could have been considered a vote of “no confidence” which basically meant “we don’t have confidence in the government – get out!” A vote of no confidence can trigger an early election and force the government to resign.
No Confidence Votes are still a thing, but the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 redefined how the vote has to be specifically worded. What this means for now: if the Queen’s Speech is voted down it will just be an embarrassing early defeat for the Conservatives.
AND HOW DO WE ALL FEEL ABOUT THIS…. NOT GOOD APPARENTLY?
What we learned today: the Queen’s Speech = the Government’s Five Year Plan. Due to the Fixed Term Parliament Act losing a vote on the Speech doesn’t mean the Government have to resign.