Prorogation Ceremony

Canadians are used to thinking of prorogation of Parliament as something rather secretive, done behind closed doors. Because of this, it might be of interest to some to actually watch a prorogation ceremony as it recently unfolded in the UK House of Lords.

Prorogation is the formal ending of a session of Parliament, either by a special ceremony held in the upper chamber or by the Queen’s or a Governor General’s proclamation to that effect. Prorogation also refers to the period of time a Parliament stands prorogued. Prorogation is a routine procedure. Some legislatures prorogue every year, others more infrequently. The UK Parliament prorogues in May because in 2010, following the general election held in May of that year, the Leader of the House announced the Government’s intention to move towards five 12-month sessions over a Parliament, beginning and ending in the spring.

For this particular prorogation ceremony, the Queen was not present, therefore it was done by the Lord Commissioners. The video includes commentary by the BBC, explaining what is going on.

Any bill that is not passed before prorogation is dropped, apart from Public Bills that have had a carry-over motion passed; in this instance debate can continue into the next session.

The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod summons MPs to attend the House of Lords to witness outstanding acts being given royal assent. By ancient tradition the legislation is given royal assent in Norman French using the words “La Reyne le veult”, which roughly translates as “the Queen wills it”.

At the end of the ceremony, it is customary for MPs to shake the hand of the Commons Speaker as they file out of the chamber.

In Canada, traditionally, a similar ceremony was observed, with the House of Commons summoned to the Senate to hear the Governor General (or the Deputy of the Governor General) deliver a speech reviewing the accomplishments of the session, and to hear the Speaker of the Senate read a message containing the date for the opening of the new session. Prorogation has not taken place in this manner since 1983. Current procedure in Canada is for prorogation by proclamation published in the Canada Gazette.

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