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Addresses to both Houses of Parliament can be important elements both of UK national occasions and of visits by major foreign dignitaries. Who gives them, and where?
Last updated: 23 February 2023
Senior Researcher, Hansard Society
Dr Brigid Fowler
Senior Researcher, Hansard Society
Brigid joined the Hansard Society in December 2016 to lead its work on Parliament and Brexit, as well as contribute to its ongoing research on the legislative process, parliamentary procedure and scrutiny, and public political engagement. From 2007 to 2014 she was a Committee Specialist for the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, where she led on the Committee’s EU-related work. In the first six months of 2016 she was on the research team of Britain Stronger in Europe. She has also worked as assistant to an MEP in Brussels and as an analyst and researcher on EU and European affairs in the private sector and at the University of Birmingham and King’s College London.
After completing BA and MPhil degrees at the University of Oxford in PPE and European Politics, respectively, she spent the first part of her career focusing on the politics of post-communist transition and EU accession in Central Europe, and completed her PhD at the University of Birmingham on the case of Hungary. She has given media comment, appeared before select committees and published several journal articles and book contributions.
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Formal Addresses to both Houses of Parliament are made by the Monarch (in addition to the King's Speech at the State Opening of Parliament), and by foreign dignitaries visiting the UK.
Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II made a formal Address to both Houses of Parliament on six occasions – to mark, respectively:
in 1965, the 700th anniversary of the Parliament of Simon de Montfort;
in 1977, her Silver Jubilee;
in 1988, the 300th anniversary of the Revolution of 1688-89 and the Bill of Rights;
in 1995, the 50th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day; and
in 2002 and 2012, her Golden and Diamond Jubilees, respectively.
All her late Majesty's formal Addresses to both Houses were made in Westminster Hall except for the first, which she gave in the Royal Gallery.
His Majesty King Charles III made a formal Address to both Houses for the first time on 12 September 2022, in Westminster Hall, in response to the presentations by the Speaker and Lord Speaker of the Addresses of condolence to him which were agreed by each House following the death of the Queen.
Formal Addresses to both Houses are made by Heads of State and by other foreign leaders, including Heads of Government of Commonwealth realms.
With respect to Heads of State, there is no necessary connection between formal Addresses to both Houses and State Visits to the UK: State Visits to the UK do not have to include a formal Address to both Houses, and there have been plenty which have not (including, especially famously, that of US President Trump in 2019). Equally, several overseas Heads of State have made formal Addresses to both Houses while they have been in the UK on a visit other than a State Visit - most recently, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in February 2023.
In terms of venues on the parliamentary estate, the vast majority of formal Addresses by visiting Heads of State and other foreign dignitaries take place in the Royal Gallery or Robing Room. Addresses in Westminster Hall are extremely rare.
The question of whether a State Visit or other official visit to the UK by a foreign dignitary will include a formal Address to both Houses - and if so, where - is determined between the Foreign, Comonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the parliamentary authorities and, if it is a State Visit, Buckingham Palace and its officials in Parliament.
Formal Addresses to both Houses of Parliament in the reigns of Queen Elizabeth II and King Charles III, and their venues on the parliamentary estate • The table includes formal Addresses up to and including that of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on 8 February 2023.
|Category of Address-giver||(Type of) Address-giver / occasion||Westminster Hall||Royal Gallery||Robing Room||Other||Totals|
|UK Monarchs (totals)||6||1||7|
|Queen Elizabeth II||5||1||6|
|King Charles III||1||1|
|Foreign dignitaries (totals)||5||25||15||2||47|
|Head of State on a State Visit||3 (French President de Gaulle, 1960; South African President Mandela, 1996; US President Obama, 2011)||14||11||1 (Jordanian King Abdullah II, 2001)||29|
|Head of State not on a State Visit||1 (Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, 2023)||3||3||1 (Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, via videolink, 2022)||8|
|Figure other than a serving Head of State||1 (Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, 2012)||8||1 (Canadian Prime Minister Harper, 2013)||10|
|Totals (UK Monarchs and foreign dignitaries)||11||26||15||2||54|
Formal Addresses to both Houses are distinguished from other speeches which are made to MPs and Peers by visiting foreign dignitaries. In some circumstances, the two types of event may appear little different from each other: Pope Benedict made a speech in Westminster Hall in 2010 but this was not a formal Address to both Houses. Other speeches which have been made by visiting foreign dignitaries and which have not been formal Addresses have more obviously not been full parliamentary occasions: for example, foreign leaders have spoken at events hosted by All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) and Select Committees.
Speeches by foreign dignitaries to MPs and Peers in the reigns of Queen Elizabeth II and King Charles III other than formal Addresses to both Houses, and their venues on the parliamentary estate • The table includes speeches up to and including that of Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska on 29 November 2022.
|Type of speech-giver / occasion||Westminster Hall||Royal Gallery||Grand Committee Room||Other||Totals|
|Head of State on a State Visit||1 (Portuguese President Soares, 1993)||1|
|Head of State not on a State Visit||1 (Pope Benedict XVI, 2010)||1 (Argentinian President Menem, 1998)||2 (Nicaraguan President Ortega, 1989; Malawian President Joyce Banda, 2013)||4|
|Figure other than a serving Head of State||2||5||1 (Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska, 2022)||8|
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