The Government’s agenda for the next parliamentary calendar is set to be revealed by the Queen on Tuesday, May 11
Her majesty will outline Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans for new laws to be introduced the coming year as well as what he wants to put out to further consultation or drop completely.
It is one of the most eagerly awaited events in the parliamentary calendar and will be given by the Queen from the throne of the House of Lords.
But what exactly is the tradition all about and what will the 2021 version contain?
Below, BusinessLive and the PA News agency reveal all:
What is the Queen’s Speech?
The speech is written for the Queen by Government ministers and usually lasts in the region of 10 minutes.
It is the centrepiece of the ceremony marking the official opening of Parliament, for another parliamentary year, or “session”.
The current session lasted 15 months due to the December 2019 General Election.
It is the only regular occasion when the three constituent parts of Parliament – the Sovereign, the House of Lords and the House of Commons – meet.
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In previous years, the Queen has been accompanied by her husband Prince Philip but after his death earlier this year she will be joined by Prince Charles.
The Prince of Wales has been at his mother’s side for the last three state openings – in December 2019, October 2019 and in June 2017.
He stepped in for his father Philip in 2017 after the duke fell ill with an infection, two months before he retired from public duties.
The History of the State Opening
Traditions surrounding State Opening and the delivery of a speech by the monarch can be traced back as far as the 16th Century.
The current ceremony dates from the opening of the rebuilt Palace of Westminster in 1852 after the fire of 1834.
Will the event be affected by Covid-19?
The State Opening of Parliament is usually the most colourful event of the parliamentary year and is steeped in tradition and customs dating back centuries.
But because of the pandemic, the pomp and ceremony has been reduced in 2021 to prevent any spread of coronavirus.
MPs and members of the House of Lords will have to wear masks throughout unless they are exempt, and everyone present will have to take a Covid test beforehand and only be allowed to attend if they have a negative result.
Significantly fewer politicians and peers will be there compared with previous years and no diplomatic or non-parliamentary guests have been invited, with just 108 people attending including the Queen.
There will 74 people in the chamber, including the monarch, Charles, Camilla, the Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer, representatives from the House of Lords and House of Commons and those involved in the ceremonial procession.
There will also be 17 members of the Lords and 17 MPs in the Royal Gallery.
Discussions took place with the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England to ensure the event was Covid-secure, with limited attendance, social distancing, masks, good hand hygiene and Covid testing incorporated into the proceedings.
One amendment is that the Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland will not hand the speech directly to the Queen as is usually the custom, but place it on a table instead.
Other changes include no military street liners or lining of the Sovereign’s staircase and no military band nor Guard of Honour outside the Palace of Westminster or as part of the procession from Buckingham Palace.
There will also be no heralds in attendance, only two Yeomen and Gentlemen at Arms, just one bishop representing the group of 26, and only the Lord Chief Justice and the Head of the Supreme Court representing the Judges.
An ancient tradition which will still take place is the one involving the House of Lords official, Black Rod.
Sarah Clarke, Lady Usher of the Black Rod, will see the doors to the Commons shut in her face as she arrives to summon MPs.
She has to strike the door three times before it is opened.
It is a practice that dates back to the Civil War and is said to symbolise the Commons’ independence from the monarchy.
The Queen will not wear the heavy Imperial State Crown. This will be carried on a cushion and placed on a table nearby as it was in 2019.
The monarch last wore the crown, which is made of more than 3,000 gemstones and weighs two pounds and 13 ounces, for the 2016 state opening.
What to expect
These are the measures which have already been confirmed or are expected:
- Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Ministers have confirmed they will bring back the bill – giving police in England and Wales greater powers to shut down protests – after it was shelved in the last session amid violent protests in some parts of the country.
- Environment Bill. Also confirmed is the commitment to set new, legally-binding environmental targets in the run-up to the international Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow at the end of year.
- Adult social care. Boris Johnson promised reform when he entered Downing Street in 2019 but the Government has yet to put forward proposals. However, Michael Gove insisted at the weekend that there will be a specific plan which will be “heading for the statute books” by the end of the year.
- A Health and Care Bill is expected to implement planned changes to the the structure of NHS England.
- A planning bill is expected to ease controls in England as part of a concerted drive to boost housebuilding.
- A Skills and Post-16 Education Bill is expected as part of the Government’s “levelling up” agenda with the promise of a “lifetime skills guarantee”.
- A Sovereign Borders Bill is expected to overhaul the asylum system in an attempt to deter migrants from crossing the Channel.
- An Elections Integrity Bill is expected to require voters to produce proof of their identity when voting in elections.
- Fixed-term Parliaments Act repeal. Ministers have said they will scrap the 2011 legislation brought in by the former coalition government and restore the prerogative power to call early general elections.
- A Building Safety Bill is expected to bring in a new system of safety regulations and inspections for buildings under construction in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.
- Legislation is expected to limit future prosecutions of British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Reports suggest it may also cover paramilitaries.
- An Animal Sentience Bill will give animals “with a backbone” the “right” to have their feelings recognised in law.
- An Animals Abroad Bill is expected to ban the import of trophies from animal hunting while a Kept Animals Bill will stop live animal exports and ban families from keeping primates as pets.