POLITICS

What Happens In The First Week Of A New Parliament?

There's a lot to get through.

12/06/2017 17:56 BST
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It’s been a long, gruelling election campaign full of unexpected twists.  

MPs have spent several weeks out on the doorstep in their constituencies hoping to be returned to or take a seat for the first time in the House of Commons.

But they won’t have long to catch their breath before it’s time to get going on another five-year (ahem) stint in Parliament. 

If no changes are made to the current schedule, the Commons will sit for six weeks before rising for summer recess on July 20.

Here’s what to expect in the first couple of weeks as normal business resumes in Westminster on Tuesday June 13.

1. Electing the Speaker

The first task for any new Parliament is to elect the Speaker.  On Tuesday, Black Rod will be sent to summon the House of Commons to attend the House of Lords. There, the Lords Commissioners – five senior peers, led by the Leader of the House - who will direct MPs to elect their Speaker.

John Bercow, who enjoys cross-party popularity, is expected to return to the Chair.  As tradition dictates, he will be physically dragged to take his place by his colleagues.

The process will be overseen by the Father of the House - the member with the longest continuous service.  Ken Clarke retains this title, having been an MP since 1970 and pipping Dennis Skinner to the post when the pair were sworn in for their first term.

2. MPs sworn in

The Speaker takes the oath first and afterwards other MPs follow suit, in order of seniority.  The Father of the House goes first, followed by the Prime Minister and cabinet.  All other MPs are then called upon, starting with the shadow cabinet and members of the Privy Counsel. 

The names of all 650 members are recorded by the Clerk of the House in the vellum-bound White Book.  Once members have taken their oath or affirmation, they sign a parchment ‘test roll’ and are introduced to the Speaker.  

MPs cannot take part in any Parliamentary business until they are officially sworn in and ensuring every member has taken their oath or affirmation can take up to three or four days.  Traditionally, new MPs were expected to not actively participate in Commons business until they had made their maiden speech, but this was relaxed in 2010 because of the huge number of new MPs elected.

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3. The Queen’s Speech

After MPs are sworn in, Parliament is adjourned until the day of the Queen’s Speech and official state opening.  It was scheduled to take place on June 19, but looks set to be delayed.

Because of the snap election, and for only the second time in the Queen’s reign, the 2017 State Opening of Parliament will be a ‘dressed-down’ affair, with the Queen wearing ‘day dress’ and a hat rather than the Imperial State Crown and robes, and arriving at the Palace of Westminster in a car rather than carriage.

From the throne in the House of Lords, the Queen will outline the government’s policies and proposed legislative programme to assembled MPs and peers. The Queen’s speech is written by the Prime Minister.

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4. Election of Deputy Speakers and Select Committees 

The Commons has three Deputy Speakers who chair debates in the Speaker’s absence.  They do not have to resign from their party and if they stand down, they are allowed to return to the backbenches.

The ballot for Deputy Speakers normally takes place one week after the Queen’s Speech and nominations must be submitted before 5pm on the day before the election.  Candidates need the support of between six and 10 MPs to run.  

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Lindsay Hoyle in the last Parliament) must come from the opposite side of the House to the Speaker and there must be at least one man and one woman in the team of four.  Chris Bryant, Meg Hillier and Rosie Winterton are among the Labour MPs rumoured to be throwing their hat into the ring this time around.

The elections are held between 11am and 12 noon on the day of the ballot, with the winners taking-up their posts the following day. 

Select committee chairmanships are divided up among the parties and are elected by the whole House.