Everything you need to know about the State Opening of Parliament 2016

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, walking through the Members' Lobby after listening to the Queen's Speech at the State Opening of Parliament in London in 2015. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday February 12, 2016. Dan Kitwood/PA Wire

What is the Queen’s Speech?

The Queen’s Speech takes place at the start of each Parliamentary session and forms the central part of the State Opening of Parliament. It sets out the government’s policies and proposed legislative programme for the new parliamentary session. It is given in the presence of members of both Houses, the Commons being summoned to hear the speech by an official known as ‘Black Rod’.

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Why do we have it?

Queen Elizabeth II sits alongside the Duke of Edinburgh as she delivers her speech in the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London. Alastair Grant/PA Wire

Traditions surrounding the State Opening and delivery of a speech by the monarch can be traced back at least to the 16th century. The current ceremony dates from the opening of the rebuilt Palace of Westminster in 1852 after the fire of 1834. It has been considered a way of bringing together the three elements of the legislature, the House of Commons, the House of Lords and The Queen.

Is she there every year?

Her Majesty has only missed two during her reign. The first time was in 1959 when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew and the

second in 1963 when she was expecting Prince Edward.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, leave the Palace of Westminster in London, following the State Opening of Parliament. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 27, 2015. See PA story POLITICS Speech. Photo credit should read: Carl Court/PA Wire

What happens on the day?

The State Opening of Parliament takes place when Parliament reassembles after a general election, and then at the start of each new Parliamentary session. So the last state opening was in May 2015 after the Conservatives won a majority and formed a government.

The Queen drives in state from Buckingham Palace to Westminster. The Imperial State Crown, the Sword of State and the Cap of Maintenance are transported to London by coach ahead of her. Only the monarch can call a Parliament together and no business can take place until the Queen reads her speech.

What does Guy Fawkes have to do with it?

Queen Elizabeth II sits alongside the Duke of Edinburgh as she delivers her speech in the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London. Alastair Grant/PA Wire

Tradition dictates that every year a detachment of The Queen’s Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard searches the cellars of the Houses of Parliament. This dates back to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when Guy Fawkes was arrested whilst preparing to blow up Parliament.

Who writes the speech?

Although the speech is delivered by the Queen, the content of the speech is entirely drawn up by the government and approved by the Cabinet.

What happens afterwards?

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, leave the Palace of Westminster in London, following the State Opening of Parliament. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 27, 2015. See PA story POLITICS Speech. Photo credit should read: Carl Court/PA Wire

Following the State Opening, the government’s programme is debated by both Houses. In the Commons the first motion is that the House send an address to the Queen thanking her for the speech.

The subsequent debate, which lasts several days, is a chance for MPs to speak on any matter of government.

What could come up in this year’s Queen’s Speech?

Some of the Bills put forward may be on the topics of higher education and school funding reform, adoption, tougher sentences for killer drivers, combatting tax evasion, garden cities, the National Infrastructure Commission, prison reform and legislation to implement the Strathclyde Review.

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