• Following the State Opening the Government’s legislative programme, as presented in the Queen’s Speech, is debated by both Houses of Parliament. The Queen’s Speech marks the start of a new parliamentary session. There are usually five sessions in each ‘Parliament’ which runs from one general election until Parliament is dissolved before the next general election.

    The Speech is delivered by the Queen from the Throne in the House of Lords in the presence of members of both Houses. The Commons are summoned to hear the speech by an official known as Black Rod. In a symbol of the Commons’ independence, the door to their chamber is slammed in his face and not opened until he has knocked on the door three times with his staff of office. Although the speech is given by the Queen, the content of the speech is drawn up by the Government and approved by the Cabinet.

    House of Commons

    The Debate on the Address normally lasts for five to six days. The motion is phrased as: “An Humble Address” to Her Majesty thanking her for her gracious speech. The task of moving the motion is regarded as an honour and is given to two government backbenchers. They are normally a contrasting pair with very different constituencies, one a relative newcomer and the other a long-serving Member. By convention, their speeches are not contentious and contain both humour and flattering references to their constituencies.

    The Library Briefing on the Queen’s Speech 2021 identifies issues and bills proposed for the Queen’s Speech on 11 May 2021.

    House of Lords

    The House of Lords also move a motion that a humble address be presented to the Queen as an expression of thanks for the “Most Gracious Speech”. Movers and Seconders of the motion since 1996 are listed in the Lords Library briefing: Queen’s Speech: Movers and Seconders.

Parliament: facts and figures

This series of publications contains data on various subjects relating to Parliament and Government. Topics include legislation, MPs, select committees, debates, divisions and Parliamentary procedure.


Please send any comments or corrections to the Parliament & Constitution Centre. Suggestions for new lists welcomed.

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