What is the Queen's Speech and what happens if MPs reject it?

What is the Queen's Speech and what happens if MPs reject it?
Copyright Jack Hill/Pool via REUTERS
Copyright Jack Hill/Pool via REUTERS
By Emma Beswick
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button
Copy/paste the article video embed link below:Copy to clipboardCopied

"We could end up in a very strange scenario where the government can't pass its Queen's Speech but still can't get the numbers for a general election. This has never really happened before and it's unclear what will happen next" - Maddy Thimont-Jack, Senior Researcher, Institute for Government.


The level of pomp likely to be displayed on Monday ahead of the Queen's Speech is second to none, even by British standards.

But it's not all gold crowns and tradition — it marks the State Opening of Parliament, which was previously closed for three days.

Here's what you need to know about the event and its possible consequences.

What is the Queen's Speech?

The Queen will come to parliament and read out an address that was prepared for her by the government.

Put together in the centre of Whitehall by ministers, it provides the government with the opportunity to put forward its priorities for the parliamentary session.

The monarch will deliver the speech from a throne in parliament's gilded House of Lords debating chamber and not in the House of Commons due to the chamber's traditional independence from the monarchy.

In fact, a ritual involving the Queen's representative, called "Black Rod", will shut the doors to the Commons their face before they can enter to further symbolise this separation.

Black Rod will summon MPs to the chamber before they go inside.

The speech will lay out 22 new bills including tougher treatment for foreign criminals and sex offenders and new protection for victims of domestic abuse.

It will also most certainly include a section on a law to enact a Brexit deal. The speech will also touch on election campaign issues like the health service and living standards.

What can we expect to see on the day of the speech?

To put it bluntly, a lot of gold and carriages.

The address is just part of the ceremony that marks the State Opening of Parliament that starts with a procession during which the Queen travels from Buckingham Palace to Westminster in a carriage.

Why hasn't there been a speech for so long?

One reason — Brexit.

While there is usually a Queen's Speech once a year, former prime minister Theresa May said the UK would have a parliamentary session lasting two years to focus on Brexit.

"This last session ended up dragging on even longer because there just weren't the numbers in parliament and they were waiting to try to deal with Brexit before starting a new session," Maddy Thimont-Jack, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Government, told Euronews.

There is controversy around Johnson's choice to hold a Queen's Speech now due to the fact that many are expecting an election soon, she added.

This would mean the parliamentary session won't last long and would mean the speech reflects what the Conservative Party's big policies might be in their election manifesto.

"It's controversial to ask the Queen to read something out that is so politically motivated," said Thimont-Jack, but she added it is within the government's right to suspend parliament and start a new session.


What happens after the speech?

Once the monarch has delivered her address, six days of debate over different elements of the speech will take place in the House of Commons, after which MPs will vote on it.

The wording of the motion that MPs will actually vote on forms part of the ceremony surrounding the event, as it is essentially thanking the Queen for the speech. In reality, they are voting on the content of the address.

What happens if MPs vote against it?

The opposition usually votes it down, but the real question this time, according to Thimont-Jack, is if the government can win a vote this way without the numbers to get anything through parliament.

It started with a slim majority, relying on the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), but has since removed the whip from several of its MPs.

Usually, if the government lost such a vote, it would be expected to call an election, but to do this UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson would need support from two-thirds of MPs — which he doesn't currently appear to have.


"We could end up in a very strange scenario where the government can't pass its Queen's Speech but still can't get the numbers for a general election, said Thimont-Jack. "This has never really happened before and it's unclear what will happen next."

Exactly when the vote on the Queen's Speech will take place should be set after it is read out.

If it takes place after an extension of Article 50 (the deadline for the UK to leave the European Union) has been negotiated with the EU, it's more likely Johnson could get the numbers to call an election, she added.

As we are seeing with many stages of the Brexit process — timing is everything.

**Read more:


'Much work needed' to secure Brexit deal ahead of crucial EU summit

Brexit Guide: Where are we now?

Share this articleComments

You might also like

Watch again: Queen gives speech as she opens UK parliament after Boris Johnson election victory

'Slaughtered': UK farmers protest post-Brexit rules and trade deals

Unionists agree to restore government in Northern Ireland