Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives

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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 of the House, which is based upon the British Westminster Parliamentary system. The current speaker is David Carter.


In the Debating Chamber

Lockwood Smith, Speaker from 2008 to 2013

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 Speakers' 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 directing and overseeing the administration and security of the buildings and grounds of Parliament (including the Beehive, Parliament House, Bowen House and the Parliamentary Library building), and the general provision of services to members. In doing so, the Speaker consults and receives advice from the Parliamentary Service Commission, which comprises MPs from across the House. The Speaker also presides over some select committees, including the Standing Orders Committee, the Business Committee, and the Officers of Parliament Committee. The Speaker also has some other statutory responsibilities, for example under the Electoral Act 1993. In this role a portion of the Parliament Buildings are given over to the Speaker. Known as the Speaker's Apartments these include his personal office, sitting rooms for visiting dignitaries and a small residential flat which the speaker may or may not use as living quarters.

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. 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. Since the shift to MMP in 1996, however, the Speaker has been counted for the purposes of casting party votes, to reflect the proportionality of the party's vote in the general election. The practice has also been for the Speaker to participate in personal votes, usually by proxy. In the event of a tied vote the motion in question lapses.

Official dress

Originally, Speakers wore the traditional court dress, wig and robes that are virtually the same as their counterpart in the United Kingdom. This practice has in recent years fallen into disuse as the Speaker now generally wears what they feel appropriate, usually an academic gown of their highest held degree or a Maori cloak.

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. If the office of Speaker becomes vacant during a parliamentary term, the House must elect a new Speaker when it next sits.

The election of a Speaker is presided over by the Clerk of the House. It is not unusual for an election to be contested. If there are two candidates, members vote in the lobbies for their preferred candidate. In the case of three or more candidates, a roll-call vote is conducted and the candidate with the fewest votes eliminated, with the process continuing (or reverting to a two-way run-off) until one candidate has a majority. Members may vote only if they are present in person: no proxy votes are permitted.

After being elected by the House, the Speaker-elect is confirmed in office by the Governor-General. At the start of a term of Parliament, the newly confirmed Speaker follows the tradition of claiming the privileges of the House.

Holders of the office

The current Speaker is David Carter, a member of the National Party, which is the largest party in Parliament and governs as a minority.[1]

Since the creation of Parliament, 29 people have held the office of Speaker. Two people have held the office on more than one occasion. A full list of Speakers is below.

† indicates Speaker died in office.

Colour key
(for political parties)

 Democratic Labour  

No. Name Portrait Term of Office Prime Minister
1 Sir Charles Clifford 31 May 1854 12 December 1860 Sewell
2 David Monro 28 March 1861 13 September 1870 Fox
3 Dillon Bell 23 February 1871 21 October 1875
4 William Fitzherbert 29 January 1876 11 August 1879 Vogel
5 Maurice O'Rorke 24 September 1879 17 September 1890 Hall
6 William Steward 23 January 1891 8 November 1893 Ballance
(5) Maurice O'Rorke 21 June 1894 3 October 1902
7 Arthur Guinness 29 June 1903 10 June 1913
8 Frederic Lang 10 June 1913 31 October 1922
9 Charles Statham 7 February 1923 1 November 1935
10 Bill Barnard 27 November 1935 25 September 1943 Savage
11 Frederick Schramm 25 September 1943 12 October 1946
12 Robert McKeen 24 June 1947 21 October 1949
13 Matthew Oram 27 June 1950 25 October 1957 Holland
14 Robert Macfarlane 21 January 1958 28 October 1960 Nash
15 Ronald Algie 20 June 1961 26 November 1966 Holyoake
16 Roy Jack 26 April 1967 7 June 1972
17 Alfred E. Allen 7 June 1972 26 October 1972
18 Stanley Whitehead 14 February 1973 10 October 1975 Kirk
(16) Roy Jack 22 June 1976 24 December 1977† Muldoon
19 Richard Harrison 24 December 1977 14 July 1984
20 Basil Arthur 14 July 1984 1 May 1985† Lange
21 Gerard Wall 1 May 1985 15 August 1987
22 Kerry Burke 15 August 1987 27 October 1990
23 Robin Gray 27 October 1990 6 November 1993 Bolger
24 Peter Tapsell 7 November 1993 12 October 1996
25 Doug Kidd 12 October 1996 5 December 1999
26 Jonathan Hunt 5 December 1999 3 March 2005 Clark
27 Margaret Wilson 3 March 2005 8 November 2008
28 Lockwood Smith 8 November 2008 1 February 2013 Key
29 David Carter 1 February 2013 Incumbent


Three other chair occupants deputise for the Speaker:

Between 1854 and 1992, the Chairman of Committees chaired the House when in Committee of the whole House (i.e., taking a bill's committee stage) and presided in the absence of the Speaker or when the Speaker so requested. These arrangements were based on those of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.[3] Until 1992, the Chairman of Committees was known as the Deputy Speaker only when presiding over the House. That year, the position of Deputy Speaker was made official, and the role of Chairman of Committees was discontinued.[4] The first Deputy Speaker was appointed on 10 November 1992.[5]

See also


  1. Fairfax NZ News reporters (31 January 2013). "Carter elected Speaker of the House". The Press. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  2. Radio NZ News reporters (21 October 2014). "Speaker named as Parliament sworn in". Radio New Zealand. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  3. McLintock 1966.
  4. "Members' Conditions Of Service". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 19 February 2011.
  5. "Speaker of the House of Representatives". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 19 February 2011.


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