The Royal Assent
A bill is passed by the House of Representatives when it receives its third reading, but does not become an Act of Parliament until it receives the Royal assent.
The granting of the Royal assent signifies that the bill has the approval of the Head of State. In New Zealand, the Royal assent is given by the Governor-General as the Sovereign’s representative, though when the Queen is here she assents to bills personally. The granting of Royal assent for Acts is common to Parliaments in countries where the Queen is Head of State.
After a bill has its third reading, Office of the Clerk staff prepare it for Royal assent. The title is changed from a bill to an Act, and if clauses have been omitted or inserted by a select committee or the Committee of the whole House it is necessary to re-number the clauses so that they run consecutively.
All cross-references in the bill have to be checked and, where appropriate, amended so that they reflect the final numbering of the bill.
The entire bill is read out loud by a member of the House Office staff to a proof reader who carefully checks the assent copy to ensure that it has been re-printed accurately. It is also independently checked by at least two other senior members of the House Office staff.
At this stage, in addition to any printing errors, obvious typographical and other minor errors can also be corrected, but only where there is no possibility that the meaning of provisions will be affected. Any more serious errors can only be amended by the passing of another bill.
When the checking process is complete and any corrections made, the bill is printed “fair”, ready for assent, and the Clerk of the House certifies two copies.
The constitutional convention is that the Governor-General acts only on the advice of the Government in constitutional matters, so an advice sheet is prepared, signed by the Clerk of the House, the Attorney-General (advising that there are no reasons why Royal assent should not be granted) and the Prime Minister (advising that the Royal assent be granted).
The two copies certified by the Clerk of the House are then sent, with the advice sheet, to Government House. The Governor-General signs them to grant the Royal assent, and the bill becomes an Act.
If the Governor-General is out of the country, the Administrator of the Government (the Chief Justice or most senior Supreme Court Judge present in New Zealand) may grant the Royal assent.