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The Lords Commissioners are Privy Counsellors appointed by the Monarch of the United Kingdom to exercise, on his or her behalf, certain functions relating to Parliament which would otherwise require the monarch's attendance at the Palace of Westminster. These include the opening and prorogation of Parliament, the confirmation of a newly elected Speaker of the House of Commons and the granting of Royal Assent. The Lords Commissioners are collectively known as the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission includes at least three—and usually five—Lords Commissioners. In current practice, the Lords Commissioners usually include the Lord Chancellor, the Archbishop of Canterbury (who is named but usually does not participate), the leaders of the three major parties in the House of Lords, the convenor of the House of Lords Crossbenchers and (since 2007) the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords.
The Lord Chancellor serves as the most senior Lord Commissioner and traditionally presides over the Royal Commission. However, since the 2007 appointment of Jack Straw, a member of the House of Commons, as Lord Chancellor the person in that office does not participate in Royal Commissions, much like the Archbishop of Canterbury. In this case, the Leader of the House of Lords performs the duties of the Lord Chancellor, with the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords serving as a Lord Commissioner. The one exception to this procedure was during the appointment in 2009 of John Bercow as Commons Speaker. On this occasion, Straw, as Lord Chancellor, performed this function personally and the Lord Speaker, Baroness Hayman, did not serve as a Lord Commissioner.
The Lords Commissioners enter the chamber of the House of Lords at the appointed time, and take seats on a structure temporarily placed for the duration of the ceremony. The Lord Chancellor or Leader of the House of Lords, as the most senior Lord Commissioner, commands the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod to summon the House of Commons. Representatives of the House of Commons arrive at the Bar of the House of Lords, and bow thrice, but do not actually enter the Lords Chamber. After each bow, male Lords Commissioners doff their hats to the Members of Parliament while female Lords Commissioners bow their heads in return. The Reading Clerk of the House of Lords then reads the Monarch's Commission, which authorizes the Lords Commissioners. After the appropriate business has been transacted, the Commons again bow thrice and depart.
Lords Commissioners in 2016
The following people were participating Lords Commissioners at the prorogation of Parliament in 2016:
- The Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal)
- The Baroness D'Souza (Lord Speaker)
- The Lord Wallace of Tankerness (Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords)
- The Lord Hope of Craighead (Convenor of the Crossbench Peers)
- The Baroness Smith of Basildon (Leader of the Labour Party in the House of Lords)
The following people were non-participating Lords Commissioners at the time of the prorogation of Parliament in 2016: