Basil Arthur

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The Honourable
Sir Basil Arthur
Sir Basil Arthur.jpg
20th Speaker of the House of Representatives
In office
Prime Minister David Lange
Preceded by Richard Harrison
Succeeded by Gerard Wall
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Timaru
In office
Preceded by Clyde Carr
Succeeded by Maurice McTigue
Personal details
Born 18 September 1928
Timaru, New Zealand
Died 1 May 1985(1985-05-01) (aged 56)
Nationality New Zealand
Political party Labour

Sir Basil Malcolm Arthur, 5th Baronet (18 September 1928 – 1 May 1985) served as Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives from 1984 to 1985. He was a member of the Labour Party.

Early life[edit]

Basil (/ˈbæzəl/) Arthur was born in Timaru, New Zealand. His father, a hotel proprietor, inherited the title of 4th Baronet in 1941, and Arthur in turn inherited it on his father's death in 1949. However, he showed a preference for labouring jobs, and made little of his title.[1]

Member of Parliament[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1962–1963 33rd Timaru Labour
1963–1966 34th Timaru Labour
1966–1969 35th Timaru Labour
1969–1972 36th Timaru Labour
1972–1975 37th Timaru Labour
1975–1978 38th Timaru Labour
1978–1981 39th Timaru Labour
1981–1984 40th Timaru Labour
1984–1985 41st Timaru Labour

In 1960 Arthur stood for Labour in the Hamilton electorate, coming second.

In 1962, he contested two by-elections for the Labour Party: first, unsuccessfully, in Waitaki; then, successfully, in Timaru. On entering Parliament at age 33 he was the country's youngest MP. He was reluctant to be called "Sir", but the Speaker at the time, Ronald Algie, said that refusing this honorific would be disrespectful to the Queen.[1]

Cabinet minister[edit]

Arthur was Minister of Transport and Minister in Charge of the State Insurance Office from 1972 until 1975.[2]


When Labour won the 1984 election, Arthur became Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives.[1] He served in that capacity for one year, before dying in office after a short illness. The then Prime Minister, David Lange recalled in My Life (2005) that Arthur was gravely ill in Wellington Hospital, and if he resigned from the member's superannuation scheme before he died (but not otherwise) his estate would get a lump-sum payment. He had to answer a question in the house, then went to hospital with a letter of resignation "only to find that he had died hardly a minute before I got there". Labour lost the subsequent Timaru by-election, with a candidate that did not suit "the conservative character of the electorate."[3]

It is interesting to note that Arthur was the second baronet to serve as Speaker, the first being Sir Charles Clifford, 1st Baronet (the first Speaker of the House of Representatives), although he was made a baronet some time after he had retired from politics.


  1. ^ a b c Henderson, John. "Arthur, Basil Malcolm". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 10 April 2017. 
  2. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 92.
  3. ^ David Lange (2005). My Life. Viking. ISBN 0-670-04556-X. 


  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand parliamentary record, 1840–1984 (4 ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Harrison
Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Dr Gerard Wall
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Clyde Carr
Member of Parliament for Timaru
Succeeded by
Maurice McTigue
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
George Malcolm Arthur
(of Upper Canada)
Succeeded by
Stephen Arthur