Page last updated at 15:04 GMT, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Queen's speech

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The monarch has delivered the Queen's Speech from her throne in the House of Lords amid the pomp and pageantry of the state opening of Parliament.

The ceremony brings MPs and peers together in the upper chamber to listen to the speech, which sets out the government's legislative plans for the forthcoming session.

To enable this rare opportunity for Her Majesty to check up on the full gamut of Westminster parliamentarians, the Queen's representative in Parliament, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, ventures into the Commons chamber to summon MPs.

In a traditional symbol of the Commons' independence from the monarch, Black Rod is hindered by having the door to the Commons unceremoniously slammed in his face - and then opened again almost immediately to allow him in after all.

Besides this indignity, Black Rod must endure a more recently established humiliation: the traditional irreverent quip from veteran Labour left-winger Dennis Skinner.

"Royal expenses are on the way," Mr Skinner remarked this year in a nod to the parliamentary expenses scandal, prompting mirth among his fellow MPs.

In all, the speech outlined 13 bills and two draft bills. There are an expected 70 to 80 days of parliamentary business remaining before Gordon Brown calls a general election.

Key measures outlined in the speech include a legal obligation to halve the budget deficit within four years and a promise to clamp down on bankers who take too many financial risks.

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