On the first day of a new Parliament, the House of Commons meets to elect a Speaker.
After that, several days are provided for MPs to take the oath of allegiance, or make a solemn affirmation (the non-religious equivalent), to the Crown. This process is known as swearing in. You must not participate in debates and votes in the Chamber until you’ve done this. If you do, you will lose your seat and be fined. All MPs are required by law to swear in if they want to take their seats, even if they were MPs in the previous Parliament. You won’t receive a salary until you swear in, although it will then be paid from when you were elected.
The first substantive business in the new Parliament is the debate on the Queen’s Speech, which usually takes place over six days. New MPs can make their first speech (known as a maiden speech) during the debate on the Queen’s Speech or in a later debate.
You can’t speak in a debate in the Chamber or Westminster Hall before you make your maiden speech (unless you don’t want to make a maiden speech at all). But you can take part in a range of parliamentary proceedings without affecting your chance to make a maiden speech. You can:
- submit and ask oral questions
- submit written questions
- ask a question about an oral statement
- submit early day motions, or amend or sign other MPs’ early day motions
- present a petition
- present or support a Private Member’s Bill
- submit amendments to bills (but you can’t speak in the Chamber to move the amendment)
- take part in committees (for example, delegated legislation committees, public bill committees and select committees).
You can also intervene on other MPs without losing the opportunity to make a maiden speech. But the Speaker may give preference to MPs who’ve not spoken at all in the Chamber (by asking a question or intervening) when calling people to make a maiden speech.