Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives

Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives

In New Zealand the Speaker of the House of Representatives is the individual who chairs the country's legislative body, the New Zealand House of Representatives (often also referred to as 'Parliament'). The Speaker fulfils a number of important functions in relation to the operation the House, which is based upon the British Westminster Parliamentary system.


In the Debating Chamber

The Speaker's most visible role is that of presiding over the House when in session. This involves overseeing the order in which business is conducted, and determining who should speak at what time. The Speaker is also responsible for granting or declining requests for certain events, such as a snap debate on a particular issue. An important part of the Speaker's role is ruling on matters of procedure known as 'Points of order' based on Standing Orders and previously made Speaker's Rulings. This has a large bearing on the smooth running of each parliamentary session. Included in these rules are certain powers available to the Speaker to ensure reasonable behaviour by MPs, including the ability to remove disruptive MPs from the debating chamber.The Speaker presides over the business of Parliament from the elevated 'Speaker's Chair' behind The Table in the debating chamber.

Outside the Debating Chamber

The Speaker is also responsible for administering the upkeep and security of the buildings and grounds of Parliament (including the Beehive, Parliament House, Bowen House and the Parliamentary Library building). These duties are mainly fulfilled through presiding over select committees, including the Standing Orders Committee, the Business Committee, and The Officers of Parliament Committee. The Speaker also chairs the Parliamentary Service Commission. The Speaker also has some other statutory responsibilities.

The Speaker is third in the New Zealand order of precedence behind the Governor-General and the Prime Minister.


The Speaker is expected to conduct the functions of the office in a neutral manner, even though the Speaker is generally a member of the governing party. Only three people have held the office despite not being from the governing party. In 1923, Charles Statham (an independent, but formerly a member of the Reform Party) was backed by Reform so as not to endanger the party's slim majority, and later retained his position under the Liberal Party. In 1993, Peter Tapsell (a member of the Labour Party) was backed by the National Party for the same reason. Bill Barnard, who had been elected Speaker in 1936, resigned from the Labour Party in 1940 but retained his position.

Historically, a Speaker lost the right to cast a vote, except when both sides were equally balanced. Now, however, the Speaker votes in the same way that any other MP does. In the past, the Speaker's lack of a vote created problems for a governing party - when the party's majority was small, the loss of the Speaker's vote could be problematic.

Election of the Speaker

The Speaker is always a Member of Parliament, and is elected by the House at the beginning of a parliamentary term. By convention, the Speaker is elected unopposed - any party able to form a government is presumably able to have its candidate installed as Speaker whether there is opposition or not. Recently this has not been the case. In March 2005 several MPs challenged for the Speakership following the resignation of Rt. Hon. Jonathan Hunt.

Holders of the office

The current Speaker is Margaret Wilson, a member of the Labour Party, which is the dominant party in the governing Labour/Progressive coalition. There are also a Deputy Speaker (Clem Simich, National) and two Assistant Speakers (Ross Robertson, Labour, and Marian Hobbs, Labour).

Twenty-seven people have held the office of Speaker since the creation of Parliament. Two people have held the office on more than one occasion. A full list of Speakers is below.

ee also

*The constitution of New Zealand

External links

* [http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/Admin/Speaker/ Office of the Speaker - New Zealand House of Representatives] (Official)
* [http://www.geocities.com/wlorac/nzshor.txt NZ Speakers of the House of Representatives, ©1986 Air New Zealand Almanac]

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