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Mother of prorogations


 

How Parliament is prorogued in Great Britain:

The ending of a Parliament (rather than a dissolution which occurs before an election) is carried out by royal command. It takes the form of an announcement made on behalf of the Queen to both Houses of Parliament. The ceremony is performed in the House of Lords with the Speaker of the Commons and MPs also present…

Queen Victoria was the last monarch to personally prorogue Parliament in 1854; ever since the message has been delivered on his or her behalf by the Royal Commission. The commission is made up of the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Speaker and the leaders of the different parties in the Lords; Labour, Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

The ceremony begins when the Royal Commission, dressed in parliamentary robes and – for the men – hats, enters the chamber and sits on a bench in front of the Throne, behind the Woolsack. The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod is commanded by the Lord Chancellor to “let the Commons know that the Lords Commissioners desire their immediate attendance in the House to hear the Commission read”. Black Rod heads to the House of Commons, where, as is customary, the door is slammed shut in his face. After knocking three times on the door with his ebony rod, the door is opened. Black Rod will proceed into the chamber to inform MPs that their attendance is required.

Led by the Sergeant at Arms and the Speaker, MPs troop down to the other end of the Palace of Westminster to hear the Queen’s message. MPs proceed as far as the bar in the House of Lords, with a great deal of bowing and doffing of hats… The Lord Chancellor then begins proceedings. It starts with the appointment of the Commissioners read by the Reading Clerk…

Royal Assent is formally announced to all legislation not already passed this session. This ceremony is one of the oldest to take place in Parliament. It involves the Clerk of the Crown announcing from the Opposition side of the table the name of each Act that is to be passed. Then, at each Act announced, the Clerk of the Parliament turns to face MPs declaring ‘La Reyne le veult’ – Norman French for ‘The Queen wishes it.’

After all bills have passed Royal Assent, the Lord Chancellor reads a speech from the Queen reviewing the past year. Like the Queen’s Speech at State Opening, this is written by the Government and reviews the legislation and achievements of the Government over the past year. Parliament is then officially prorogued. Immediately following the Lord Chancellor’s speech, MPs return to the Commons where the Speaker, sitting in the Clerk’s place at the table, reads the ‘Terms of Commission’ (the terms by which Parliament is prorogued)..

Parliament then prorogues until the day named for the State Opening by the Queen. Finally, in one of the nicest moments in the parliamentary year, MPs file out past the Speaker and shake his hand.

How Parliament is prorogued in Canada:

The Prime Minister phones the Governor General.


 

Mother of prorogations

  1. Can't even say that, when we were importing the Westminster system, somehow this was lost in translation.

  2. LOL. We laugh now……

  3. Can't the PM text her or something?

    Is it that important? Why not just get the Executive Assistant to do it? Or a Co-Op intern from the University of Waterloo–after he's done that batch of photocopying?

  4. on page 36 of my current Macleans, in the article on global warming, you or your editor make that most irritating mistake when you say that " The data they cite has been drawn..". Probably, you mean "HAVE been drawn"? You know better! Fire your sub-editors.

    • According to Oxford Concise English the use of "data" as a mass or collective noun is entirely permissible, thus "The data they cite has been drawn[…]" is not a mistake. Perhaps a greater understanding of the English language would lead to less irritation when reading articles.

      • BURN!

    • What's a sub-editor?

  5. "The Prime Minister phones the Governor General."

    What a classy guy we have for a PM, eh?

  6. I think the PM is just lucky that Canadians aren't as hot-blooded as Liberal photoshoppers make them seem!

    I say scrap the federal government. It's just Ontario looking out for Ontario anyhow.

  7. Actually, I should say the federal government is just the status quo of Upper and Lower Canada both trying to eat each other alive, all the while dragging the rest of the provinces down with them.

    • What about all those Alberta MPs on the government side? Ineffectual tools of the Family Compact?

  8. If he's the chessmaster I'm told he is, I'm inclined to believe as well that he did it that way very purposefully.

    • I agree Craig. I think he is just playing the part of the provocateur. Wait until you see the budget in March.

  9. Many thanks for the historical British perspective.

    I look forward to an analysis of how the prorogue has been used historically in the Canadian context. (or a link to your fave already in the ether-sphere)

    Cheers!

  10. MJ: prorogue. kthxbye.

  11. Should we be expecting a Special Collector's Prorogue Edition of Macleans?

    Where all the Macleans blog colleagues can do their greatest prorogue whining bits.

  12. Does our House of Commons ever get to slam the door in the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod's face? I mean, you've got to import the prorogue bit just for that alone!

    • If we slam it on Baird instead we'll get more "ceremony."

  13. How antiquated. Can't the PM text her or something?

  14. …Lords and chancellors who have asked question about prisoner treatment during the last sitting are ceremoniously gagged, then taken behind the royal shed and beaten.

  15. Royal Assent is formally announced to all legislation not already passed this session.

    If royal command is made on the advice of the PM, this seems rather problematic to me. It would virtually grant a sitting PM a backdoor means of passing unpopular legislation.

  16. Yes — that passage brought me up short too. Can this be so? What stage would said legislation have to be at?

    At the moment, this would be a disastrous power in Canada, and it's easy to imagine, as sea'n'mountains says, how it could be made worse. Do first reading (ie: mere introduction) of all kinds of nasty measures one day (or as long as that takes); then prorogue the next. Surely even in the UK this is not happening?

  17. skdadl (great name, btw!) I would guess that it has not been abused in the UK in this manner, or if it has such abuse has been rare. As Ibbitson in the Globe this morning and Coyne in reacting to Ibbitson point out, our Parliament is much more weak and open to abuse than its UK counterpart, not to mention Australia and New Zealand counterparts (which they do!). I suspect that had this been abuse the BBC article would have made mention of its controversial nature.

    see:
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/few-

    and:
    http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/01/08/the-real-issue

  18. Royal Assent is only granted after a bill is passed in both houses.

    If a bill hasn't been passed in both houses it wouldn't be up for royal assent.

  19. Royal Assent is only granted after a bill is passed in both houses.

    If a bill hasn't been passed in both houses it wouldn't be up for royal assent.

    • I read both, and I think the confusion may come from the BBC's loose use of "not already passed". It could mean not already passed all stages of reading, or not already given Royal Assent, the final "passage" of a bill. If you use the latter interpretation, it would only apply to bills having received 3rd reading in both places.

  20. sea'n'mountains, I have read both Andrew and Ibbitson, and I feel the need to respond at length to Ibbitson's ridiculous column, so I will do that at our place rather than here. I think we're running into politics for one thing — Ibbitson could only write about the U.S. Congress as he does, eg, if he accepted their near-decade-long subservience to a stronger and stronger executive, now challenged there by the courts (some of them) alone.

    Beyond that, I couldn't see that either Andrew or Ibbitson was proposing serious structural reforms (PR), and neither talked about the deep cultural differences that affect the relative restraint or independence of MPs, not to mention citizens, in Canada and the UK.

  21. hmmm, i somewhat, but not completely agree skdadl. i think they point to some structural issues, even if not framed as an agenda for reform per se, things like the size of the UK House relative to ours and its implications. But you are right that there is more to say about structure. a more concrete structural reform agenda can be drawn from those experiences of those countries.

    also, i fully concur that a thorough analysis were make more of cultural differences. i see some of this as cyclical or as moving in waves where leaders in different jurisdictions push on different elements of what they can get away with. i don't think it leads, necessarily, to uniform take up by others elsewhere (for example, Howard in Australia did some damaging things in Australia we haven't seen replicated here or in the UK yet). I think it leads to a more general sense across jurisdictions that the constitution and its conventions are extremely malleable and their are few instances where their are sufficiently spelled out consequences that inhibit taking full advantage of that as circumstance demands if need be. the willingness to do so seems to come and go (and is definitely not determined by partisan stripe!).

    i had a discussion with a more 'c' and 'C' conservative on here last week that i found to be representative of this perspective. his point was essentially if it is not laid out in law it is more or less a suggestion, and if it is a suggestion it can't possibly be binding. as we all know, we can't possibly write laws to meet every potential contingency so the cultural dynamic that drives that commentator's perspective is key!

  22. You can always count on the Brits to put on a brilliant ceremony, no matter the occasion, at the very least. UK is going to hell in a handcart but at least they have traditions.

  23. re-read the piece Ibbitson also has some outright errors. that ain't good.

  24. and generally crazy hats too. traditional pomp and circumstance and crazy hats: two musts for any contemporary democracy!

  25. "and crazy hats"

    I love the hats. My fav hats are the ones women wear to wedding or other big day out – what with elaborate colour/feathers, women look like a bird has landed on their head.

    And result was about what I was expecting with Cesc missing from action. I just finished watching match and I wonder when Wenger will get rid of Almunia, he has to be one of the worst goalkeepers in the Premiership.

  26. I think you may be right. When I read the sentence, I surmised it meant that royal assent was given to those bills which had not received it (this being a more ceremonial process in Britain than here).

    It seems unlikely that the British Parliament would grant such a potentially dangerous power to the crown that the alternative interpretation of the sentence suggests.

    • perhaps. though, i find it more odd/unlikely that they would introduce a special element in the ceremony to deal with bills that had already received all elements of passage save royal assent.

      given that royal assent is often granted the same day and given that the timing of prorogation is set solely by the government in consultation with the Crown it is highly unlikely that any bill would ever actually be in a circumstance where it is in awaiting assent after the request for prorogation is made. even if there were last minute bills passed, why would the government not simply deliver the bills for signature and then prorogue?

      • But…

        "When Royal Assent has been given to a Bill, the Speaker in the Commons and the Lord Speaker in the Lords announce the Royal Assent at a suitable break in each House's proceedings.

        The exception to this procedure is at prorogation, when Black Rod interrupts the proceedings of the Commons and summons MPs to the Lords Chamber to hear the Lords Commissioners announce Royal Assent for each Bill." http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/laws/stages/ro

        Also…

        "The granting of the Royal Assent is sometimes associated with elaborate ceremonies. In the United Kingdom, the Sovereign may appoint Lords Commissioners, who announce that Royal Assent has been granted at a ceremony held at the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, or another royal residence. However Royal Assent is usually granted less ceremonially by letters patent. In other nations, including Australia and Canada, the Governor-General merely signs the bill." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Assent

  27. the sheaf of wheat example was pretty damn good as examples go.

  28. Are you an everton fan?

    I would gladly trade Howard for Almunia. And I have always enjoyed watching Arteta who was not playing today, thankfully.

  29. Agreed. If it isn't abused in the UK, what is it that stops the abuse?

  30. This is to be expected when the Governor-General responds to the Prime Minister's advice that she stop referring to herself as Canada's "head of state" by arguing the point.

    I am glad the PM did it this way. I still shake my head at last year's prorogation, with the live TV coverage of the GG's flight returning to Ottawa and then the PM being kept waiting 2 hours the next day for an "audience" with Her Excellency.

    I am sure that PM when leaving Rideau Hall in December 2008 was muttering under his breath "next time I'm just going to phone it in."

  31. hmmm, i somewhat, but not completely agree skdadl. i think they point to some structural issues, even if not framed as an agenda for reform per se, things like the size of the UK House relative to ours and its implications. But you are right that there is more to say about structure. a more concrete structural reform agenda can be drawn from those experiences of those countries.

    also, i fully concur that a thorough analysis were make more of cultural differences. i see some of this as cyclical or as moving in waves where leaders in different jurisdictions push on different elements of what they can get away with. i don't think it leads, necessarily, to uniform take up by others elsewhere (for example, Howard in Australia did some damaging things in Australia we haven't seen replicated here or in the UK yet). I think it leads to a more general sense across jurisdictions that the constitution and its conventions are extremely malleable and their are few instances where their are sufficiently spelled out consequences that inhibit taking full advantage of that as circumstance demands if need be. the willingness to do so seems to come and go (and is definitely not determined by partisan stripe!).

    i had a discussion with a more 'c' and 'C' conservative on here last week that i found to be representative of this perspective. his point was essentially if it is not laid out in law it is more or less a suggestion, and if it is a suggestion it can't possibly be binding. as we all know, we can't possibly write laws to meet every potential contingency so the cultural dynamic that drives that commentator's perspective is key!

  32. nah not really, i feel like the are a bit of a underdog and so i like that. i am more just a fan of watching good games in the premiership these days joylon.

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