Publications / Briefings

Back to Business 2024: A guide to the start of the new Parliament

3 Jul 2024
The House of Commons during Prime Minister's Questions, 2 February 2024. ©Maria Unger/UK Parliament
The House of Commons during Prime Minister's Questions, 2 February 2024. ©Maria Unger/UK Parliament

The new Parliament will assemble on Tuesday 9 July 2024, five days after the General Election. This guide explains the ceremonial, legislative, organisational and procedural processes that are engaged at the start of the Parliament.

This guide examines the challenges a July General Election poses to the parliamentary calendar over the Summer, detailing the implications for sitting times, recess periods and the length of the Session. It explores key questions about the new Government's plans with respect to legislation and public finances in the early months, comparing them with those following the 1979, 1997 and 2010 General Elections. It also considers the implications for the functioning of the Opposition in the House of Commons based on recent opinion poll scenarios.

©Maria Unger/UK Parliament

Executive summary

When will the Government present its first bills after the King's Speech? When will the Government schedule a Budget? Why do departmental spending plans (the 'Main Estimates') need to be approved urgently before the Summer recess? When will House of Commons Select Committees be up and running? If two opposition parties win a similar number of seats at the General Election, how might this affect the functioning of the opposition in the House of Commons?

©House of Commons

Parliamentary calendar: Sessions, sittings and recesses

A General Election in July poses challenges to the normal parliamentary calendar over the Summer. When Parliament sits will affect the timing of some of the key procedures at the start of the Parliament such as the setting up of Select Committees. It will also affect the timing of the Budget. So what will happen with the Summer and party conference recesses?

©Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament

Election of the Speaker of the House of Commons

The first item of business for MPs will be the election of their Speaker. Sir Lindsay Hoyle is seeking re-election. How will the election process work? The Father (or Mother) of the House presides over the election: who will that be? Why will the Speaker-elect be 'dragged' to the Chair by MPs? What role does the Monarch and the House of Lords play in the process?

©Jessica Taylor/House of Commons

Election of the Deputy Speakers

One of the Speaker’s first decisions will be to decide a date for the election of the Deputy Speakers. The House of Commons has three Deputy Speakers who assist the Speaker by chairing debates in his absence. So what happens in the interim until the Deputy Speakers are appointed? How are the three posts allocated between the parties?

©Andy Bailey/UK Parliament

Swearing-in

The swearing-in of MPs usually begins the day after the Speaker’s election and can take several days; no other business is generally conducted before the King’s Speech. Why must MPs swear in? They can choose to take the 'Oath of Allegiance' of make a 'solemn Affirmation': what's the difference? How do Members of the House of Lords swear in?

©Roger Harris/House of Lords

State Opening of Parliament and King’s Speech

The State Opening of Parliament and the King’s Speech will take place on Wednesday 17 July. What are the ceremonial preparations for State Opening? Why is the King's Speech so important? How much time is spent debating the King's Speech? How do MPs vote on it? What other parliamentary business can be conducted in this period? When will the Government present its first bills?

©Jessica Taylor/House of Commons

Setting up Select Committees

The chairs of most House of Commons Select Committees are now elected. But how is the distribution of Select Committee chairs between the parties determined? What is the process for electing the chairs and members ? Will term limits affect any potential chairs? Select Committee seats are allocated to reflect the balance of parties in the House: will the minor parties have any representation?

©Zara Farrar/HM Treasury

The Budget and Estimates

The new Government will face a series of financial decisions and procedures that need to be implemented on a tight timetable in its first six months. When will it hold a Budget? How does Parliament scrutinise and approve the Budget and Finance Bill? The departmental 'Main Estimates' need to be approved by MPs before the Summer recess: why, and what will happen if they don't? Might Supplementary Estimates also be needed?

©House of Commons

Private Members’ Bill ballot

Private Members’ Bills (PMBs) are bills introduced by MPs and Peers who are not Government Ministers. When will the PMB ballot take place? When will MPs have to present their bills if they are successful in the ballot? Why might there be an extended window of opportunity for lobby groups to encourage MPs to adopt their legislative proposal this year? When can Peers introduce PMBs in the House of Lords?

©UK Parliament

The role of the opposition parties

The opinion polls predict the General Election will result in a Labour Government with a big majority. They also suggest the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties may win a similar number of seats. How would this affect the functioning of the opposition in the House of Commons? What factors determine the identity of the Official Opposition and the second party of opposition? What rights do the Official Opposition have in the House of Commons?

17:00pm, 3 July 2024

England, M. and Fox, R., Back to Business 2024: Procedure at the start of a new Parliament, (Hansard Society)

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