Start of a new Parliament

Start of a new Parliament

After a general election a new Parliament meets and a new session begins. The following is an outline of the Parliamentary proceedings that take place at the start of new session following a general election.

The date for the first meeting of a new Parliament is given in a royal proclamation when the previous Parliament is dissolved. The royal proclamation is published in both the London and Edinburgh Gazettes.

The Prime Minister asked Her Majesty to summon the new Parliament to meet on Monday 18 May 2015, following the General Election on Thursday 7 May 2015 and ahead of the State Opening of Parliament on Wednesday 27 May 2015.

At the time of the 2010 general election the royal proclamation also dissolved Parliament.

Following the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, the Monarch now issues the proclamation summoning the new Parliament, once the previous Parliament is dissolved.

Both the House of Commons and the House of Lords sit for a few days ahead of the official State Opening of Parliament, the formal start of a parliamentary session. During this time the re-election or election of a new Speaker of the House of Commons takes place, and MPs and Lords take the oath or affirmation.

Following the 2015 general election, the House of Commons sat from 18 to 21 and on 26 May 2015, and the House of Lords sat on 18 and 19 May 2015, before the State Opening on 27 May 2015.

The Father of the House of Commons - the MP with the longest continuous service - acts as the Chair before the Speaker is elected and presides over the election of the Speaker.

Once assembled, the House, led by the Father of the House, goes to the House of Lords where they receive a message from the Queen asking them to elect a Speaker.

If the incumbent Speaker is returned at the election and wishes to stand for re-election, that decision is made immediately.

If there is no returning Speaker wishing to stand again, or the House votes against the incumbent Speaker, a contested election by exhaustive ballot must take place to choose a new Speaker.

On the day following the Speaker’s election, the House goes to the Lords once again, led by the Speaker-Elect, and hears another message from the Queen confirming the Speaker’s appointment.

Following the 2015 general election John Bercow was re-elected Speaker on 18 May 2015. Royal Approbation for the choice of Commons Speaker was given via the Lords Commissioners on 19 May 2015.

Find out more about the procedure for electing the Speaker of the House of Commons:

Election of Commons Deputy Speakers

Following the 2015 general election the House of Commons Deputy Speakers were elected on 3 June 2015.

Find out more about the election of Deputy Speakers:

After the Speaker’s appointment has been confirmed, the House then returns to the Commons Chamber, where first the Speaker takes the oath of allegiance, followed by the Father of the House, the Prime Minister and other members of the Cabinet.

Any MP or Member of the House of Lords who objects to swearing an oath can make a solemn affirmation instead. This process is known as swearing in.

Swearing in continues for two or three further days before the House adjourns to the date set for the Queen’s Speech and State Opening.

The State Opening of Parliament took place on Wednesday 27 May 2015 following the general election on 7 May 2015.

The State Opening of Parliament marks the formal start of the parliamentary year and the Queen's Speech sets out the government’s agenda for the coming session, outlining proposed policies and legislation.

State Opening takes place after a general election following the election of the Speaker of the Commons and the swearing-in of Members of both Houses, or on the first day of a new Parliamentary session which is not after an election.

Debating the Queen’s Speech

After the State Opening members of both Houses debate the content of the Queen’s Speech and agree an 'Address in Reply to Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech'. Each House continues the debate on the planned legislative programme for several days, looking at different subject areas.

The Queen's Speech is voted on by the Commons, but no vote is taken in the Lords.

It was the custom of the House, but not an absolute rule, that a new MP should not participate in proceedings in the Chamber before making his or her maiden speech. This practice was relaxed at the beginning of the 2010 Parliament due to the large number of new MPs elected for the first time. New MPs were advised that whether to observe the custom was a matter of choice for them.

Select Committee Chairs and members are chosen for the new Parliament. The party composition of the committees will reflect that of the new House of Commons.

Election of Chairs of Commons Select Committees

On the day after his election, under Standing Order 122B(2), the Speaker communicates the proportion of committee Chairs for each political party which triggers the process for their election.

The House has to approve the allocation of Chairs between the parties on the basis of a motion which should be tabled by the leaders of all the parties entitled to seats on committees (under Standing Order No. 122B(3)) within a week of the Queen’s Speech. Chairs should then be elected two weeks after this.

The majority of Select Committee Chairs are now elected by their fellow MPs. This applies to departmental committees and the Environmental Audit, Procedure, Public Administration and Public Accounts committees as well as the new Petitions Committee.

The ballot for the election of select committee Chairs is to take place on Wednesday 17 June 2015.

Commons Select Committee membership

The members of a select committee, other than a Chair elected by the House, are nominated by a motion before the House. The names are put forward by each political party. This will be the next step following the election of the select committee Chairs.

Following the 2010 general election, members of Commons select committees were appointed on 12 July 2010.

House of Lords select committees

Image: iStock

2015 election timetable

The general election took place on Thursday 7 May 2015. Read the timetable for what is expected to happen, from the end of the current Parliament through to polling day and beyond.


The UK is currently divided into 650 areas called parliamentary constituencies, each of which is represented by one MP in the House of Commons.