New Zealand Parliament Pāremata Aotearoa

What does the Privileges Committee do?

Published date: 17 Oct 2017
Empty Debating Chamber of New Zealand Parliament Enlarge image

Debating chamber

Source: Office of the Clerk

The Privileges Committee considers and reports on any matters that are referred to it by the House as questions of privilege relating to or concerning the privileges of the House or its members.

Parliamentary privileges, powers, and immunities exist to ensure the Parliament is independent of the Crown and the courts, to help it to carry out of its functions effectively, and to protect all participants in parliamentary proceedings.  Examples of parliamentary privileges include freedom of speech, the power to obtain evidence, and the right for the House to control its own proceedings free from outside interference.

The concept of parliamentary privilege is sometimes misunderstood to mean that politicians acquire personal privileges simply by being elected to Parliament. In fact, parliamentary privilege applies to Parliament as a whole rather than the individual members. It enables the House of Representatives, as the democratically elected House of the people, to go about its business, such as lawmaking, without interference from outside.

A question of privilege is raised by an MP by making a complaint to the Speaker at the earliest opportunity.  The Speaker makes an assessment of whether a question of privilege is involved. If so, the Speaker rules on the matter in the House and it is referred to the Privileges Committee.  The Privileges Committee investigates the matter and makes a recommendation to the House, which then decides whether to adopt the recommendation.