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[edit]

Lockwood Smith, the previous Speaker

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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.

# Name Took Office Left Office Speaker's Party Governing Party
1 Charles Clifford 1854 1860 None None
2 David Monro 1861 1870 None None
3 Dillon Bell 1871 1875 None None
4 William Fitzherbert 1876 1879 None None
5 Maurice O'Rorke 1879 1890 None None
6 William Steward 1891 1893 Liberal Liberal
Maurice O'Rorke, 2nd time 1894 1902 Liberal Liberal
7 Arthur Guinness 1903 1913 Liberal Liberal
8 Frederic Lang 1913 1922 Reform Reform
9 Charles Statham 1923 1928 None Reform
Charles Statham, continued 1928 1935 None Liberal
10 Bill Barnard 1936 1940 Labour Labour
Bill Barnard, continued 1940 1943 Democratic Labour Labour
11 Frederick Schramm 1944 1946 Labour Labour
12 Robert McKeen 1947 1950 Labour Labour
13 Matthew Oram 1950 1957 National National
14 Robert Macfarlane 1958 1960 Labour Labour
15 Ronald Algie 1961 1966 National National
16 Roy Jack 1967 1972 National National
17 Alfred Allen 1972 1972 National National
18 Stanley Whitehead 1973 1976 Labour Labour
Roy Jack, 2nd time 1976 1977 National National
19 Richard Harrison 1978 1984 National National
20 Basil Arthur 1984 1985 Labour Labour
21 Gerard Wall 1985 1987 Labour Labour
22 Kerry Burke 1987 1990 Labour Labour
23 Robin Gray 1990 1993 National National
24 Peter Tapsell 1993 1996 Labour National
25 Doug Kidd 1996 1999 National National (in coalition)
26 Jonathan Hunt 1999 2005 Labour Labour (minority coalition government)
27 Margaret Wilson 2005 2008 Labour Labour (minority coalition government)
28 Lockwood Smith 2008 2013 National National (minority government)
29 David Carter 2013 Incumbent National National (minority government)


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[edit]


  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. 


  • A. H. McLintock, ed. (1966). "Meeting of Parliament". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand (updated 22 April 2009 ed.). Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 19 February 2011. 
  • Scholefield, Guy (1950) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer. 

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