The King’s Speech, State Opening and the 1922 Committee - Parliament Matters podcast, episode 1

10 Nov 2023
The Queen's Speech delivered by the then Prince of Wales during the May 2022 State Opening of Parliament. ©UK House of Lords (CC BY 2.0)
©UK House of Lords (CC BY 2.0)

As the Government sets out its legislative plans for the next Session in the King's Speech, co-hosts Ruth Fox and Mark D'Arcy look at the political and parliamentary prospects for the proposals and discuss the latest on what’s happening with HS2 legislation.

They discuss why Parliament has legislative Sessions that begin with State Opening and end with Prorogation, and disagree over whether it’s time to abandon the pageantry!

Mark and Ruth then head off to the House of Lords to meet Professor the Lord Norton of Louth to discuss the subject of his new book, the 1922 Committee of the Conservative Party, which has risen to prominence in recent years due to the number of Conservative Party leadership elections. The 1922 Committee was not founded in 1922 and it is not a Committee, so what is it? And is the selection of party leaders by the party membership really compatible with our system of parliamentary democracy?

Parliament Matters is supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust

Parliament Matters is supported by a grant from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, a Quaker trust which engages in philanthropy and supports work on democratic accountability.

©House of Lords [CC BY 4.0 Deed]

©House of Lords [CC BY 4.0 Deed]

Philip Norton, Professor the Lord Norton of Louth

Lord Norton is Professor of Government, and Director of the Centre for Legislative Studies, at the University of Hull. He was appointed to his professorial chair in 1986 and elevated to the peerage in 1998. The author of over 35 books, his most recent work is The 1922 Committee: Power Behind the Scenes.

Lord Norton is a member of the Hansard Society, the former Director of Studies for our international Hansard Scholars programme, and a member of our Delegated Legislation Review. He chairs the History of Parliament Trust and the Higher Education Commission, is President of the Study of Parliament Group and Editor of The Journal of Legislative Studies.

Co-host, Parliament Matters Podcast. ©

Mark D'Arcy, Co-host, Parliament Matters

What does the pageantry of State Opening tell us about Parliament?

"What you're seeing is a Victorian romantic conception of medieval monarchy... You might as well be in Narnia. It's a conception of government that is way, way, way out of date now. It's 19th century romanticism about the Middle Ages raised up into the shell for a Parliament in the 21st century."

If Parliament has passed an Act why are some provisions not implemented?

"...there'll be provisions to say that these specific clauses will come into force straightaway or it may say they will come into force after a particular event or a particular date, or it will be left open to ministers to decide when they come into force. And if they don't commence them, then they never come into force... famously the Act that set the date of Easter has never been commenced."

Co-host, Parliament Matters Podcast. ©

Dr Ruth Fox, Co-host, Parliament Matters & Director of the Hansard Society

Hansard Society

House of Commons Library

Lord Norton

Please note, this transcript is automatically generated. There are consequently minor errors and the text is not formatted according to our style guide. If you wish to reference or cite the transcript copy below, please first check against the audio version above. Timestamps are provided above each paragraph.

00:00:00:00 - 00:00:34:00

You are listening to Parliament Matters, a Hansard Society Production supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. Learn More at Hello and welcome to Parliament Matters, the new podcast from the Hansard Society about the institution at the heart of our democracy - Parliament itself. I'm Ruth Fox and I'm Mark D'Arcy. Every week we're going to be analysing what's going on behind the Gothic facade of Westminster.

00:00:34:02 - 00:00:52:00

We'll be explaining how the system works and hearing about the latest research on the workings of parliaments and politics, and looking back at key moments of parliamentary history. We're going to talk in this episode about The King's Speech, the new laws the government has proposed, the State Opening of Parliament. And indeed, why do we have a State Opening of Parliament?

00:00:52:01 - 00:01:23:22

Why do we have this slightly strange system of parliamentary cycles that start with The King's Speech and closed with the prorogation ceremony providing a sort of hard stop to the legislative agenda? And then we'll be talking to Lord Norton, political savant and Tory peer who dropped by to discuss the 1922 Committee, the mysterious institution whose inhabitants may or may not wear gray suits, but who can make or break a conservative prime minister.

00:01:23:24 - 00:01:46:05

But first, The King's Speech. The King's Speech is the beginning of a parliamentary year. It's when His Majesty sets out on behalf of the Prime Minister of the day the program of laws they're planning to pass in the coming year. But we all know that an election is due in the next 12 months or so. So how much of what's being proposed this time around is actual law that they want to get on the statute book?

00:01:46:11 - 00:02:08:13

And how much is political performance art? I suppose you might say something intended to create dividing lines with labor, something intended to set up the debates of the next general election. Ruth, you've been looking at the list. Yes. So the 21 bills that the government has has identified. Of course, the thing to remember is the government can bring bills in that are not in The King's Speech.

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