Friday 14 May 2010

First Days of the New Parliament

The membership of the new Parliament was elected a week and a few hours ago. Many made their way quickly to Westminster. Returning MPs came back to their offices and staff, while new Members were allocated temporary laptops and tables to work from. Orientation programmes were already in place. Meetings of the parliamentary parties have already been held.

Next Tuesday is the official start of the 2010 Parliament. (The 55th Parliament of the United Kingdom). It is from Tuesday that the five year period runs - so if Parliament has not been dissolved by 18th May 2015, it will be automatically dissolved as a result of the Septennial Act 1715. [Five Years was substituted for the original seven years by the Parliament Act of 1911]. Of course this will be a moot point within a few days as the coalition intends to introduce a binding resolution to name the 7th May 2015 as the next General Election date - and probably amend or replace the Septennial Act for future parliaments.

The first business on Tuesday will be to elect a Speaker. Both Houses will have assembled - and the Lords Commissioners will send Black Rod to summon the Commons. When they have congregated at the Bar of the House of Lords they will be told "We have it in command from Her Majesty to let you know that, as soon as the Members of both Houses shall be sworn, the causes of Her Majesty calling this Parliament will be declared to you: and, it being necessary that a Speaker of the House of Commons should be first chosen, it is Her Majesty's Pleasure that you, Members of the House of Commons, repair to the place where you are to sit, and there proceed to the choice of some proper person to be your Speaker, and that you present such person whom you shall so choose here tomorrow for Her Majesty's Royal Approbation."

The process for choosing the Speaker is as follows:

When Parliament meets, the Father of the House - the backbench MP with the longest continuous service - presides over Commons proceedings. As the Speaker in the previous Parliament, John Bercow, has been returned at the general election, if he is willing to be chosen as Speaker, he will make a short speech to the House.

Another MP is called to move a motion that the former Speaker take the chair as Speaker-elect. The Father of the House then puts that question to the House. The motion is not debated. If anyone objects a division, or vote, is held.

If MPs agree, the Speaker-elect takes the chair.There would be speeches of congratulation from the party leaders, and the House would then adjourn. The next afternoon the House would go to the Lords for the Royal Approbation of the Speaker, and return for the start of swearing-in.

If Members do not re-elect the former Speaker, the House is adjourned until 2.30pm the following day when it will elect a new Speaker by secret ballot. The procedure would be the same as that used in 2009 - which is that
  • MPs are given a list of candidates and place an x next to the candidate of their choice
    if a candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the votes, the question is put to the House that he or she takes the chair as Speaker

  • if no candidate does so, the candidate with the fewest votes, and those with less than five per cent of the vote, are eliminated in addition, any candidate may withdraw within 10 minutes of the announcement of the result of a ballot

  • MPs then vote again on the reduced slate of candidates and continue doing so until one candidate receives more than half the votes
Further details can be found here.

Oath taking by all MPs will follow. Similarly Members of the House of Lords take the oath.
(full details of the proceedings in the Lords can be found here)