When a new Speaker is elected by the Commons, the approbation of the monarch is required. Rather than attend in person, the monarch conveys that approbation through a royal commission. MPs are summoned to the bar of the House of Lords and the commission – comprising the Lord Chancellor and the leaders of the parties (and the convenor of the cross-benchers) in the Lords – delivers the Queen’s confirmation.
When John Bercow was elected Speaker on 22 June, he and other MPs were summoned by Black Rod and crowded into the area below the bar. The commissioners were sat in front of the throne, Jack Straw in his black robes and hat, looking like Judge Jeffreys about to send somone to the gallows, and the others in their ermine. After the commission had been read, Jack Straw declared “Her Majesty’s royal allowance and confirmation of you, Sir, as Speaker of the House of Commons.”
While I am a greater supporter of ceremony where it has a purpose, I am not sure whether this ceremony is altogether necessary. The election is one for the House of Commons and I doubt if MPs appreciate having to traipse all the way over to the Lords to crowd into the cramped space that is available. It used to be the case that when a Bill received royal assent, Black Rod had to summon the Commons to attend the Lords to hear the announcement of that assent. It interrupted business and MPs got fed up with it. As a result, royal assent is now announced in each House without any great ceremony and without any interruption of business.
There may be a case in the future for the approbation to be delivered by the Lord Chancellor in the Commons (given that he is now an MP), or – if the Lord Chancellor sits in the Lords – an MP who holds a position in the Royal Household. Or is this too radical? I also have ideas for reforming some aspects of the State Opening of Parliament!