Queen's Speech: What is it and why is it important?

By Tom Edgington
BBC News

Published
Prince Charles delivering the Queen's Speech on 10 MayImage source, Getty Images

Prince Charles has delivered the the Queen's Speech in Parliament.

The Queen normally delivers the address, but she pulled out because of mobility problems.

What is the Queen's Speech?

The Queen's Speech provides the government with an opportunity to highlight its priorities for the months ahead.

It forms part of the State Opening of Parliament ceremony, which marks the start of the parliamentary year.

Traditionally, the ceremony begins with a procession in which the Queen travels from Buckingham Palace to Westminster by carriage.

For the first time since 1963, the Queen did not attend this year's state opening. Her place was taken by Prince Charles.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Prince Charles was accompanied by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince William

What happens during the speech?

Before the speech, MPs are summoned to the House of Lords by Black Rod, an official position currently held by Sarah Clarke.

Before entering the House of Commons, Black Rod has the door shut in their face, symbolising the chamber's independence from the monarchy.

Image source, Getty Images

During the speech - read from the throne in the House of Lords - the laws the government wants to get through Parliament in the coming year are set out.

It is given in the presence of MPs, peers and other dignitaries in the House of Lords.

Who writes the Queen's Speech?

It is written by ministers and its length depends on the number of proposed laws and other announcements - such as foreign policy objectives.

It normally takes about 10 minutes.

What was in the Queen's Speech?

Prince Charles said the government's priority "is to grow and strengthen the economy and help ease the cost of living for families".

The speech highlighted some of the 38 laws which ministers intend to pass in the coming year.

This number includes some bills carried over from the previous session of Parliament, which ended last month, and a number of bills which were included in past Queen's Speeches.

  • The Levelling up and Regeneration Bill will give councils new planning powers, including to force landlords in England to let out empty shops to rejuvenate high streets
  • A new state-run agency to regulate railway services across the UK, Great British Railways, will be established by a Transport Bill
  • The Online Safety Bill is a mammoth piece of legislation to deliver a government pledge to better regulate content appearing on the internet
  • A Public Order Bill will introduce new police powers over disruptive protests, which were blocked by the House of Lords earlier this year
  • A Brexit Freedoms Bill will give ministers new powers to overhaul EU laws they copied over after the UK left the bloc
  • A new Schools Bill will give the schools regulator powers to crack down on unregistered schools in England, and introduce attendance registers
  • An Energy Security Bill will contain new powers aimed at boosting renewable energy, and promote a market in electric heat pumps
  • An Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill will beef up the investigatory powers of Companies House and aim to increase corporate transparency

Is there a vote on it?

Yes.

About two hours after the speech is delivered, MPs reassemble in the House of Commons to begin debating its contents.

After introductory speeches by two MPs, the prime minister will "sell" the speech to the Commons, setting out a vision for the country.

The leader of the opposition then gets the chance to respond, before other MPs are allowed to contribute.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The last prime minister to lose a vote on the speech was Stanley Baldwin in 1924

The debate on what is known as the Humble Address normally lasts about five days.

At the end of the debate there is a vote. It's normally seen as symbolic, as it is extremely rare for a government to lose it.

In fact, the last time a government lost the vote was in January 1924, under Conservative Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin.

Mr Baldwin proceeded with a King's Speech - George V was the monarch at the time - despite having lost his majority in the previous month's general election. He was forced to resign, and Labour formed a short-lived government in his place.