The State Opening of Parliament is always a grand occasion. We do ceremony extremely well and this morning everything proceeded according to the timetable. The programme lists very precise timings: for example, ‘11.08 The Lord Chancellor proceeds from the Prince’s Chamber to the foot of the Sovereign’s Staircase. 11.11 The Peers appointed to carry the Cap of Maintenance and the Sword of State enter the Royal Gallery from the Prince’s Chamber’.
The ceremony often confuses broadcasters and others. The judges sat in front of the Queen, with their robes and wigs, for example, are not the Law Lords. Members of the diplomat corps, as well as wives of members of the House, sit in set places in the chamber.
The occasion, though, is not just a ceremony for the sake of it. It has great symbolic relevance. It is the one occasion in the year when Parliament as a legal entity – the Queen-in-Parliament – meets. The status of the Queen as someone being above politics is symbolised by the Lord Chancellor, Jack Straw, handing the speech to her and then being given it back once it has been delivered. The meeting marks the start of a new session of Parliament and allows the Government to announce its programme for that session. The programme announced this morning was fairly short – this session will be a shorter one than the last one – with no great surprises. Various Bills, expected to be included, have been omitted.
The significance of the State Opening of Parliament is discussed by the Lord Speaker in a video on the Parliament YouTube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enJRPX1P1Ng