7 Debating chamber
View of the debating chamber of the House of Representatives.
The Speaker is elected by fellow members of Parliament and chairs the House of Representatives. Each sitting day, the Speaker follows the Serjeant-at-Arms into the debating chamber, takes the chair, and reads the prayer to open proceedings. The Speaker decides who speaks when and keeps order throughout the sitting.
The Speaker also:
- oversees parliamentary spending
- chairs the Parliamentary Service Commission
- manages Parliament's buildings and grounds.
Today, the Speaker is impartial, but this wasn't always the case. During Parliament's early years, the Speaker got more involved in debates. From the 1880s, the convention of an impartial Speaker began to develop, and this strengthened in the twentieth century.
Clerk of the House of Representatives
Today, 'clerk' often suggests a junior administrative position - but not in the parliamentary tradition. The Clerk of the House of Representatives has an important role and sits below the Speaker at the head of the Table in the debating chamber.
- notes the proceedings of the House
- gives procedural and legal advice to the Speaker and members of Parliament
- is responsible for the records of Parliament.
Since the 1930s, the position has required legal expertise.
In Parliament's early years, the Clerk dressed formally - in a black suit and scarlet stockings at one time. In the 1900s, the dress became the wig and gown of barristers. Now, the Clerk wears these items only on formal occasions such as the opening of Parliament.
Radio broadcasting of Parliament
New Zealand was the first country to broadcast parliamentary debates regularly. From 25 March 1936, people around the country could turn on their radios and listen to Parliament. The Government wanted to encourage people to take an interest in national affairs.
Despite ups and downs in the early days, like broadcasts revealing the commotion of the House and interruptions to transmission, broadcasting was a great success. Some members of Parliament capitalised on the chance to be heard on air. One member used to interrupt speeches until the Speaker referred to him. Afterwards, he would leave for a drink, confident that his constituents knew he was on the job.
Radio broadcasting of Parliament continues to this day.