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What's the "Address"?

Queen’s Speech | The Institute for Government

It is rare for the government to be defeated on the address in the Commons – as governments usually have a majority in the House. But it has happened – most recently in 1924, when Stanley Baldwin’s minority government was defeated. Baldwin then resigned as prime minister, and the opposition went on to form a new government.

https://www.ka.edu.pl/download/gfx/ksw/pl/defaultaktualnosci/1162/23/1/electionam.pdf, 5.

Stated simply, these conventions are, first, that the incumbent Prime Minister has the first opportunity to continue in office and form an administration; secondly, that if he is unable to do so (and resigns, or is defeated on the Address or in a no confidence motion at the meeting of the new Parliament) then the Leader of the Opposition is appointed Prime Minister; and thirdly, it is for the political parties to negotiate any inter-party agreement for government among themselves without royal involvement.

Colin Faragher's Public Law Concentrate 2019, 15.

In the event of a hung Parliament the incumbent Prime Minister has the first opportunity to continue in office and form an administration. If he or she is unable to do so (and resigns, or is defeated on the Address or in a no confidence motion at the meeting of the new Parliament) then the Leader of the Opposition is appointed Prime Minister. It is for the political parties to negotiate any inter-party agreement for government among themselves without royal involvement.

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When a new session of Parliament starts, the King or Queen gives a Speech from the Throne. This speech is actually written by the newly-elected government and lays out their plans for the upcoming session. After the speech, the House of Commons gives an address to the King/Queen thanking them for the speech:

Most Gracious Sovereign,

We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.

The debate over this address is a proxy vote on the government's plan laid out in the speech, which in turn is a vote of confidence in the government. In 1924, the House voted to add a sentence to the end:

But it is our duty respectfully to submit to your Majesty that Your Majesty's present advisers have not the confidence of this House.

In a Westminster parliamentary system, loss of confidence means the government has to resign. Normally, this means Parliament dissolves and there are new elections. Under the circumstances in 1924, the opposition instead formed a government (although that government fell within a year).

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  • This answer is incorrect, because everything changed in 2011 when the Fixed Term Parliaments Act was passed, and precedents from before that date are no longer valid. A government losing a vote on its Queen’s Speech or Budget can no longer trigger an election — only a no confidence motion with wording specified by the FTPA, a vote of 2/3 of MPs (as in 2017) or new primary legislation (as in 2019) can trigger an early election. – Mike Scott Feb 15 at 11:38
  • @MikeScott True for now but as it is government policy to repeal the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, possibly not for much longer. – richardb Feb 19 at 13:53

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