Saturday 19 August 2017

Here's why you won't be seeing the usual pomp and ceremony at the State Opening of Parliament this year

Here’s what you need to know.

By Taylor Heyman

The result of the snap election and the formation of a minority government has resulted in changes being made to the usual pomp and ceremony of the State Opening of Parliament on Wednesday.

So what’s staying the same, and what’s changing? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is the State Opening of Parliament?

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The State Opening of Parliament marks the formal start of the parliamentary session and is the only regular time when the three parts which make up Parliament – the Sovereign, the House of Lords and the House of Commons- come together.

This State Opening has been delayed by two days due to the snap election and the Tories’ failure to return a majority government to power.

What will be different this time and why?

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The State Opening of Parliament will take place without many of its lavish traditions this year.

As the 2017 ceremony will take place four days after the Trooping the Colour, it was deemed infeasible for the military and the Royal Mews to stage two major events in such a short period.

It means the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will travel to and from the Palace of Westminster by car.

With the loss of the procession and the carriage used to take the Regalia – the Imperial State Crown, the Cap of Maintenance and Great Sword of State – to the Palace of Westminster, it is understood the decision was taken to scale back other ceremonial elements, such as the Queen’s attire.

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The 91-year-old monarch will deliver her speech on what is usually the most colourful event of the Parliamentary calendar wearing a day dress and hat, rather than the Imperial state crown and ceremonial robes.

The Queen’s procession to the Chamber of the House of Lords, where she takes the throne and delivers her speech, will also be reduced, with no heralds present.

The Great Sword of State and the Cap of Maintenance, symbols of the Sovereign’s power and authority, will still be carried before the monarch, but will be joined by the Imperial State Crown.

What traditions will stay the same?

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Black Rod, the House of Lords official, will summon the House of Commons to the Lords after the Queen has taken her seat in the chamber.

As he approaches the Commons, the door of the Chamber will be slammed in his face to demonstrate the supremacy of the Lower House over the Lords. He knocks three times with his Black Rod, from which he derives his name, and is finally admitted.

The Serjeant-at-Arms, carrying the Mace, leads the procession to the Lords followed by the Commons Speaker and Black Rod. The Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition and MPs follow them, and when they reach the Lords chamber, they stand at the opposite end to the throne, known as the Bar.

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The Queen’s Speech is delivered to the throne by the Lord Chancellor in a special silk bag. Although the Queen reads the Speech, the content is entirely drawn up by the Government and approved by the Cabinet.

The final words, “other measures will be laid before you”, give the Government flexibility to introduce other legislation as necessary.

When the Queen leaves, the Royal Standard is taken down and the Union Flag hoisted.

In the afternoon, Parliament goes back to work, with each house meeting separately to begin debating the content of the speech.

Does this mean Theresa May has secured a deal with the DUP?

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No.

In fact, the party may be some days from that. Just one day before Wednesday’s ceremony, a DUP source told the Press Association that talks with the Conservatives “haven’t proceeded in a way that the DUP would have expected” and cautioned that the party “can’t be taken for granted”.

The Tories are hoping to secure a supply and confidence arrangement with the Northern Irish party – which has 10 MPs in the new Parliament – whereby the DUP will pledge to back the Government’s budget and programme without actually taking up ministerial positions in the administration.

The agreement should protect the Government from being brought down by a vote of no confidence, but they will have to agree other issues on a vote-by-vote basis.

Press Association

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