Companion to the Standing Orders and Guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords - Contents


A Royal Commission consists of three or more (usually five) Commissioners, who are Privy Counsellors appointed by Letters Patent to perform certain functions on the Queen's behalf. These functions include:

  • proceedings at the opening of a new Parliament in connection with the election of a Speaker by the Commons (see appendix D page 260);
  • proceedings at the Opening of Parliament[100] when the Queen is not present (see appendix E page 256);
  • proceedings in relation to the giving of Royal Assent to bills (see appendix F page 259);
  • proceedings at the prorogation of Parliament (see appendix G page 261).

A minister of the Crown of cabinet rank normally presides. The Commissioners wear robes and (optionally for female Commissioners) hats.

Proceedings on Royal Commissions differ in their details but share common characteristics, which are described in this appendix. Appendices D-G describe the differences.


The Lords Commissioners enter the Chamber by the door on the spiritual side near the Throne. They take their seats on a form placed between the Throne and the Woolsack. The presiding Commissioner sits in the centre; the senior in precedence of the other Lords Commissioners sits on his or her right and the next senior on his or her left, the remaining two in order of seniority on the right and left of these respectively.


The presiding Commissioner commands Black Rod:

"Let the Commons know that the Lords Commissioners desire their immediate attendance in this House [to hear the Commission read[101]]."

Black Rod summons the Commons.

The Commons proceed from their Chamber and advance to the Bar of the House of Lords, bowing three times, the first time at the step, the second time midway between the step and the Bar, the third time at the Bar. Each bow is acknowledged by the Lords Commissioners. Male Commissioners raise their hats; women Commissioners do not.


The Commission is read by the Reading Clerk at the Table. He bows to each Lord Commissioner as he names them, and a male Commissioner responds by raising his hat. Women Commissioners keep their hats on.


The Commons withdraw, with three bows which are acknowledged as on their arrival.


The Commissioners, led by the presiding Commissioner, leave the Chamber by the door on the spiritual side near the Throne, and disrobe.

100   Either a new Parliament or a new session. Back

101   These words are added on the first day of a new Parliament, or if Parliament is to be prorogued. Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2013