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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 November 2006, 17:05 GMT
A Guide to Prorogation
Black Rod
Black Rod bangs on the door to the House of Commons
Before the Queen's speech on 11 November, both the Commons and the Lords will undergo a ceremony called "prorogation" to end the current Parliamentary session.

The ending of a Parliament (rather than a dissolution which occurs before an election) is carried out by royal command.

It takes the form of an announcement made on behalf of the Queen to both Houses of Parliament.

The ceremony is performed in the House of Lords with the Speaker of the Commons and MPs also present.

The speech looks back at the last session noting major bills and other actions of the Government.

As both Houses have to prorogue at the same time, any remaining business in either the Lords or the Commons will delay the ceremony.

The Missing Monarch

Queen Victoria was the last monarch to personally prorogue Parliament in 1854, ever since the message has been delivered on his or her behalf by the Royal Commission.

The commission is made up of the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Speaker and the leaders of the different parties in the Lords; Labour, Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

The Ceremony

The ceremony begins when the Royal Commission, dressed in parliamentary robes and - for the men - hats, enters the chamber and sits on a bench in front of the Throne, behind the Woolsack.

The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod is commanded by the Lord Chancellor to "let the Commons know that the Lords Commissioners desire their immediate attendance in the House to hear the Commission read".

Black Rod heads to the House of Commons, where, as is customary, the door is slammed shut in his face.

After knocking three times on the door with his ebony rod, the door is opened. Black Rod will proceed into the chamber to inform MPs that their attendance is required.

The MPs March

Led by the Sergeant at Arms and the Speaker, MPs troop down to the other end of the Palace of Westminster to hear the Queen's message.

MPs proceed as far as the bar in the House of Lords, with a great deal of bowing and doffing of hats. The doffing of hats is a traditional form of greeting and symbolises mutual respect.

The Lord Chancellor then begins proceedings. It starts with the appointment of the Commissioners read by the Reading Clerk.

This is the official command from the Queen.

Norman French

Royal Assent is formally announced to all legislation not already passed this session.

This ceremony is one of the oldest to take place in Parliament.

It involves the Clerk of the Crown announcing from the Opposition side of the table the name of each Act that is to be passed.

Then, at each Act announced, the Clerk of the Parliament turns to face MPs declaring 'La Reyne le veult' - Norman French for 'The Queen wishes it.'

The Year In Review

After all bills have passed Royal Assent, the Lord Chancellor reads a speech from the Queen reviewing the past year.

Like the Queen's Speech at State Opening, this is written by the Government and reviews the legislation and achievements of the Government over the past year.

Parliament is then officially prorogued.

Immediately following the Lord Chancellor's speech, MPs return to the Commons where the Speaker, sitting in the Clerk's place at the table, reads the 'Terms of Commission' (the terms by which Parliament is prorogued).

In recent years, the repetition of the Queen's Speech has been ordered to be printed for MPs rather than the Speaker re-read Her Majesty's statement.

End of the Session

Parliament then prorogues until the day named for the State Opening by the Queen.

Finally, in one of the nicest moments in the parliamentary year, MPs file out past the Speaker and shake his hand.

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