Definitions

prepared speech

Speech from the Throne

The Speech from the Throne (or Throne Speech) is an event in certain monarchies in which the monarch (or a representative) reads a prepared speech to a complete session of parliament, outlining the government's agenda for the coming year. This event is often held annually, although in some places it may occur more or less frequently whenever a new session of parliament is opened. The speech from the throne is not written by the head of state who reads it, but rather by the government.

In most cases, the speech is read in a neutral voice, and although the Head of State may refer to "my government", it is clearly established that the Head of State is not responsible for determining the policies within the speech.

Commonwealth Realms

United Kingdom

Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech, also known as the Gracious Address, or, less formally, as the Queen's Speech, is the speech from the Throne performed in the United Kingdom, before both Houses of Parliament. The speech itself is part of a lavish affair known as the State Opening of Parliament, with many formalities and traditions, including the Queen's wearing of her official state crown. In the speech, the Government's legislative programme is outlined for the new parliamentary session.

Following a symbolic raising of other matters, designed to highlight the independence of Parliament from the Crown, both Houses of Parliament, the House of Commons and the Lords hold a debate and can vote on the speech. This vote is held to constitute a motion of confidence in the government which if lost would result in the end of that government.

A Throne Speech is not typical in the devolved legislatures within the United Kingdom, the nearest equivalent being a statement of the legislative agenda of the executive branch usually given by a First Minister. However, the Queen often undertakes visits and speaks to the devolved bodies in a less official capacity. So far, she has been present and has given an address at all openings of the Scottish Parliament, usually speaking reflectively upon its accomplishments and wishing the institution well for its coming term rather than considering the plans of the Executive.

Other realms

In the other Commonwealth realms, a similar speech to the British version is held in their respective legislatures. Generally, the Speech from the Throne will be read on Her Majesty's behalf by the relevant Governor-General, however if the Queen is present in the country she will often give the address in person. Queen Elizabeth II opened the Canadian Parliament with the Speech from the Throne in 1957, and again during her Silver Jubilee in 1977.

As in the UK, debate on the Speech from the Throne in Canada is preceded by a symbolic consideration of other business to demonstrate the independence of both houses. In the House of Commons, the bill considered is Bill C-1, An Act respecting the Administration of Oaths of Office; in the Senate, it is Bill S-1, An Act relating to Railways.

Debate on the Speech from the Throne then takes place; although the form is nominally a motion merely to formally thank the Governor General for presenting the speech, the vote on the motion is understood to express support for or opposition to the policies in the speech, and is a confidence motion.

Australia and Canada, federated countries, also hold a Throne Speech in the state or provincial jurisdictions, used to outline local legislative plans. Typically these are performed by the respective state Governors or provincial Lieutenant Governor, who represent the sovereign in that area. In Canada, the monarch does not give the Speech from the Throne in provincial legislatures, though Elizabeth II has addressed the Legislative Council of Quebec from its throne in 1964 and the Legislative Assembly of Alberta from the chamber's throne during her tour of that province in 2005.

Other countries

Other monarchies, such as the Netherlands (Day of the Princes) and Norway, have similar throne speech ceremonies. In Japan, the Emperor makes only a short greeting speech on Diet opening ceremony; he does not refer to any government policies, instead allowing the Prime Minister to address the Diet on political matters.

Many republics also hold a yearly event in which the president gives a speech to a joint session of the legislature, such as the State of the Union Address given by the President of the United States. Where the President is the political head of the government the speech is more partisan in character; for instance, the President of the United States, besides being head of government and state, is generally considered to be the head of his party, and the State of the Union tends to reflect this.

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