New Zealand Parliament Pāremata Aotearoa


Published date: 8 Nov 2004

Parliament has its own language that can be hard to understand. This glossary lists the terms and explains what they mean.

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Act / Act of Parliament
A law made by Parliament. (See also regulations)

Address (to the Sovereign or Governor-General)
A formal communication from the House of Representatives to the Crown in which the House makes known its views. They are usually in reply to a Speech from the Throne or to commend appropriations for Offices of Parliament.

Address in Reply
The House’s response to the Speech from the Throne delivered at the beginning of each session of Parliament.

Bringing a sitting of the House to a close. For example, “The House now stands adjourned”. It also describes the period between sittings of the House. (compare with recess)

Administrator of the Government
The person (usually the Chief Justice) who performs the Governor-General’s duties if the office is vacant or the Governor-General is unable to perform their duties. If, for example, the Governor-General is overseas.

A change to a bill or motion being considered by the House or a select committee.

annual review
Scrutiny by the House and its committees of the performance for the previous financial year, and current operations, of Government departments, Officers of Parliament, Crown entities, State enterprises, and public organisations.

Appropriation Bill
A Government bill that seeks authority from Parliament to spend public money and incur liabilities. Details of the Government’s spending plans are set out in papers that are presented in association with each Appropriation Bill. (See Estimates)

See Royal assent.

The chief law officer of the Crown and the Minister responsible for the country’s administration of the law and for providing legal advice to the Government. Before the first reading of a bill the Attorney-General may indicate to the House whether any of its provisions appear to be inconsistent with any of the rights and freedoms contained in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

An old English word for yes used when votes are cast in support of a motion in the House. For example, “All those in favour say Aye”.

The votes of members who vote in support of a motion. (Compare with Noes)

Ayes Lobby
The lobby to the Government side of the Chamber. Members go to the Ayes Lobby to record a personal vote in support of a motion.


Backbencher . Backbench MP
A member of Parliament who is not a Minister or a leading member of an Opposition party and who does not occupy a front bench in the Chamber.

The Executive Wing which houses Ministers’ offices and where Cabinet meets. It is known as the Beehive because of its distinctive shape. Public entry to the gallery and most select committee meeting rooms is through the entrance foyer of the Executive Wing.

Parliament’s dining rooms and catering service.

Bell / Bells
Electronic bell, also known as the division or House bell, that rings to call members to the Chamber. The bell ring for 5 minutes at the start of each day's sitting, when members need to make a personal vote, and when there is no Minister in the House. It also rings briefly when the House is suspended or adjourned.

A proposed law that the House may consider. (See legislative process)

Bills Office
The part of the Office of the Clerk that supplies parliamentary documents to the House and individual members including bills, Order Papers, regulatory impact statements, and annual reports.

Black Rod, Usher of the
An officer who acts as messenger between the Governor-General and the House on ceremonial occasions. For example, calling members to the Legislative Chamber to hear the Speech from the Throne during the State Opening of Parliament. The officer is named for the black staff they carry.

Bowen House
The building on the corner of Bowen Street and Lambton Quay which houses some members’ offices. Public entry to select committee meeting rooms 1 and 2 are through Bowen House.

The process for preparing and documenting the Government’s economic policies and spending plans each year, resulting in the introduction of an Appropriation Bill and the delivery of the Budget statement.

Budget day
The day identified by the Minister of Finance when the Government will present its Budget and for the delivery of the Budget statement.

Budget policy statement
A paper presented by the Minister of Finance in the months before the Budget, foreshadowing the Budget and its policy goals. The Finance and Expenditure Committee examines the Budget policy statement and reports to the House (compare with Budget statement)

Budget statement
A statement made by the Minister of Finance in the House detailing the Government's economic policies and plans for spending public money in the coming year.

Business Committee
A parliamentary committee that makes decisions about many aspects of proceedings of the House and select committees including determining the order of business in the House, extended sitting hours, and the size and membership of select committees.

An election held during a parliamentary term when the seat of an electorate MP becomes vacant. For example, when a member dies or resigns.


The central decision-making body of executive Government. Chaired by the Prime Minister, the Cabinet is a collective forum for Ministers to decide significant Government issues.

Someone who puts his or her name forward for election to Parliament.

A collective term for all members from the same political party. A caucus meets regularly in private to consider party matters.

Chairperson (Committee of the whole House)
The presiding officer when the House meets as a committee of the whole House. The Chairperson presides over the committee of the whole House—not the Speaker.

chairperson (select committees)
A presiding officer of a select committee elected by that committee.

The debating chamber where the House of Representatives meets. It has rows of seats and desks in a U-shape facing the Speaker's Chair.

Distinct, numbered blocks of text that together form a bill that may be grouped into parts. Each clause deals with a single matter or closely connected set of points. Clauses become known as sections when a bill becomes an Act.

Clerk / Clerk of the House of Representatives
The principal permanent officer of the House of Representatives. The Clerk is also the chief executive of the Office of the Clerk.

Clerk at the Table
The Clerk, and other Office of the Clerk staff, who sits at the Table when the House is in session. The Clerk at the Table makes notes of the decisions made by the House and advises on procedure.

Clerk of Committee
A member of the Office of the Clerk. Each select committee is supported by a secretariat led by a Clerk of committee. Clerks of committee arrange committee meetings and provide procedural support.

coalition Government
A type of Government that is formed from more than one party.

cognate bills 

Two or more bills that can be debated together in the House at their first, second or third reading; for example, because they deal with similar topics

committee of the whole House
A committee, presided over by a chairperson, that includes all members. The committee of the whole House considers certain business in detail. In the case of bills, this committee stage happens after their second reading, and during this stage any member may propose amendments to a bill. Unlike first, second, and third reading debates a member may speak more than once. (see also Chairperson (committee of the whole House))

The ability of the Government to command the support of a majority of members in the House. If the Government loses the confidence of the House another party could seek to form a Government or a general election might be needed.

confidence, vote of / confidence vote
A vote on a motion that determines whether the Government has the confidence of the House. Confidence votes usually arise from the Address in Reply, an Appropriation Bill, or an Imprest Supply Bill.

conscience vote
A personal, or free, vote made by all members according to their own conscience rather than along party lines, such as a vote on a bill amending liquor licensing laws or gambling laws.

See electorate.

A person living in an electorate.

The King or Queen of New Zealand when exercising powers through Ministers. In effect, the Executive or Government.


A discussion on a bill or a motion before the House.

delegated legislation
See regulations.

disclosure statement
Documents providing information about the content and development of legislation proposed by the Government. Disclosure statements seek to assist the parliamentary and public scrutiny of a bill or Supplementary Order Paper.

The ending of a Parliament by proclamation, resulting in a general election. (See also proclamation, prorogation, and expiration)


The system that allows members to access their select committee papers electronically.

The process by which electors vote for members of Parliament.

A person who is eligible to vote in an election.

electoral roll
The list of names of people who are registered electors for an electorate.

A district or area represented by a member of Parliament. Electoral boundaries are reviewed and redrawn by the Representation Commission.

Electorate MP
A member elected to represent an electorate. (compare with list MP, see also member of Parliament (MP))

electorate office
A member’s office in his or her area or district.

To pass an Act of Parliament. (See legislative process, and Royal assent)

A detailed statement of how the Government proposes its departments and other agencies will spend public money and incur liabilities in a financial year. This spending must be approved through an Appropriation Bill.

evidence / submission
Information given in writing or in person to a select committee.

A decision-making group made up of the Prime Minister and other Ministers. The Government of the day forms the executive.

Executive Council
The highest governmental body in New Zealand. It consists of all Ministers and is presided over by the Governor-General—who is not a member. The council's primary function is to issue Orders in Council. (see Orders in Council)

The ending of a Parliament if it exceeds the legal time limit, which is three years from the date set for the declaration of the results after the previous general election. The expiration of a Parliament triggers a general election. Parliaments are usually dissolved before they expire. (See also dissolution)

extended sitting
A mechanism that gives the Government extra time in the House to progress parts of its legislative programme. Under extended sitting the House may progress identified items of business one stage. (compare with extraordinary urgency, sitting day, and urgency)

extraordinary urgency
A mechanism that gives the Government extra time in the House to progress matters that need to be addressed with the utmost urgency. Under extraordinary urgency the House may pass identified items of business through more than one stage. Under extraordinary urgency the House sits until the items accorded extraordinary urgency are dealt with. (compare with extended sitting, sitting day, and urgency)


financial year
A year as it is set for public finance, being the period from 1 July of one calendar year to 30 June of the next.

first reading
The first stage (debate) in the passing of a bill. On passing its first reading a bill is usually referred to a select committee for consideration.

See Parliamentary forecourt.


The public seating areas above the Chamber.

General Assembly
The original name for the New Zealand Parliament.

general election
The election held after each term of Parliament, usually 3 years, to elect members of a new Parliament.

The group of people, political party or parties, represented in the House with the authority to govern the country. (See also executive).

Government bill
A bill introduced by the Government. Government bills deal with matters of public policy. (see also local bills, member’s bills, and private bills)

Government House
The Governor-General’s official residence.

The Sovereign’s representative in New Zealand. Until 1917 the title used for the Sovereign’s representative was Governor. (See also Administrator of the Government)


An alternative name for the publication New Zealand Parliamentary Debates (see New Zealand Parliamentary Debates).

Hansard (OOC)
A part of the Office of the Clerk that transcribes parliamentary debates and publishes them on the Parliament website and in hard copy.

hearing of evidence
A part of a select committee meeting in which members of the public may present information or opinions about an item of business before the committee.

House, The
Short for the House of Representatives.

House Office
See Table Office.

House of Representatives
The assembled body of elected members of Parliament.


Imprest Supply Bill
A bill that seeks to give the Government temporary authority to spend public money and incur liabilities until detailed spending proposals are approved through an Appropriation Bill.

introduce (a bill)
To present a bill to the House marking the start of the bill’s process towards becoming an Act of Parliament.


Journals of the House of Representatives
The official record of the proceedings of business transacted by the House of Representatives. Effectively the minutes of the House.


Binding rules by which society is governed. (See bill, and regulations)

Leader of the House
The Minister, appointed by the Prime Minister, who coordinates Government business in the House.

Leader of the Opposition
The leader of the largest political party in the House that is not part of the Government.

Laws, Acts of Parliament, or bills. (See also regulations)

Legislative Council Chamber
The chamber in Parliament House where the Legislative Council, or Upper House, met before its abolition in 1951. The Legislative Council Chamber is still used for formal occasions such as the State Opening of Parliament.

legislative process
The process by which the House considers a bill before it becomes an Act of Parliament. To be successful, a bill must be read three times.

A law-making body. The House of Representatives is the law-making body for New Zealand.

List MP
A member drawn from a political party’s list (compare with electorate MP, see also member of Parliament (MP))

Lobby, Ayes and Noes
Lobbies on the sides of the Chamber where members cast a personal vote. Those supporting a motion go to the Ayes Lobby, while those not supporting a motion go the Noes Lobby. (See also Ayes Lobby and Noes Lobby)

local bill
A bill put forward by a local authority, such as a city council, seeking a change to the law to deal with an issue specific to its area. A local bill is sponsored by an MP, usually the local member.


A symbol of the Speaker’s authority. At the beginning of a sitting day, the Serjeant-at-Arms carries the Mace into the Chamber and places it on the Table. When the Chairperson is presiding over the committee of the whole House, he or she places it in a cradle underneath the Table.

maiden speech
The first speech made by a new member in the Chamber, when that speech is made during the Address in Reply debate.

maiden statement
The first speech made by a new member in the Chamber, when that speech is not made during the Address in Reply debate.

member of Parliament (MP)
A person elected to the House of Representatives. A member may be elected to represent an electorate or may be from a political party’s list. (See also electorate MP, list MP, or mixed-member proportional representation)

member's bill
A bill introduced by a member who is not a Minister.

A member who is part of the Executive. Ministers are usually responsible for one or more Government departments or agencies. (see also Executive)

Minister outside Cabinet
A member who is part of the executive but not Cabinet.

minority Government
A Government formed by a party or coalition of parties that does not have a majority in the House in its own right, but retains the confidence of the House through the support or abstention of members who are not in a Government party.

mixed-member proportional representation (MMP)
The voting system used to select New Zealand’s members of Parliament, of which there are generally 120. Each voter casts two votes—one for a political party and one for a local candidate.

A formal proposal put to the House of Representatives or a committee for debate and usually a vote.

To propose a motion.

See whip.


New Zealand Parliamentary Debates
A written record of the debates in the House of Representatives, commonly known as Hansard.

The votes of members who vote against a motion.

Noes Lobby
The lobby to the Opposition side of the Chamber. Members go to the Noes Lobby to record a personal vote against a motion.

notice of meeting (NOM)
Notice of an upcoming select committee meeting.

notice of motion
Notice of a member’s intention to move a motion, the text of which is printed on the Order Paper.


Office of the Clerk
The secretariat of the House of Representatives. It gives specialist advice on parliamentary procedure and law, and provides administrative services to the Speaker and members as they participate in the business of the House and its committees. (See also the Bills Office, Hansard (OOC), Select Committee Services, and the Table Office)

Members who do not belong to the political party or parties forming the Government, or who have not agreed to support the Government.

oral questions
A part of general business dealt with by the House each sitting day when members ask oral questions of Ministers, select committee chairpersons, or other members about matters for which they are responsible. A notice of questions is lodged on the same sitting day that the questions are to be addressed. Also known as question time, questions for oral answer usually takes more than an hour to complete.

Order Paper
The document that sets out the proposed order of business, or agenda, for the House on any one sitting day.

order, point of
See point of order.

orders of the day
The items of business set down on the Order Paper.

Orders in Council
A type of Legislative Instrument made by the Executive Council that are the main method, after Acts of Parliament, by which the Government implements decisions that need legal force. Orders in Council can be used to enact regulations.

out of order
The term describing any proposal, action, or behaviour that is against Standing Orders.


The Sovereign and the House of Representatives.

Parliament Buildings
Parliament House, the Beehive, the Parliamentary Library, and Bowen House.

Parliament grounds
The landscaped gardens and open area surrounding Parliament House, the Beehive, and the Parliamentary Library.

Parliament House
The central building where the House meets. It houses the Chamber, most select committee meeting rooms, and some member’s offices.

Parliament TV
The service that provides television broadcasts from the House.

Parliamentary Library
The library and analytical information service for members and staff.

parliamentary privilege
The exercise of certain powers and immunities for members and other people (officers and witnesses) taking part in Parliament’s proceedings. Parliamentary privilege is designed to help the House function effectively without outside interference.

parliamentary procedure
The way in which the House conducts its business.

Parliamentary Counsel Office
The organisation that drafts Government bills, excluding tax bills. It also provides drafting assistance to select committees.

Parliamentary forecourt
The paved area immediately in front of the Beehive and Parliament House. The forecourt is used in ceremonial occasions, such as welcoming visiting dignitaries.

Parliamentary Service
The organisation that provides general administrative and support services to members and the House, and manages Parliament’s buildings and grounds.

A division of a bill, which contains a group of clauses under a single heading. Not all bills are structured with parts.

A political group that stands for a defined set of policies and puts candidates forward in elections.

party vote
A procedure where each party is called upon to vote and a single member may cast the vote of all members of the same party. A party may authorise another party to lodge their vote if there are no members of that party available.

personal vote
A vote cast by members individually. Personal votes are used for conscience issues or where party votes are too close to give a definite result.

A document presented to the House, signed by one or more people, requesting that a certain course of action is taken, or not taken.

point of order
A question about whether the proceedings of the House or a committee comply with Standing Orders.

A prayer read by the Speaker at the beginning of each sitting day before any business begins in the House.

presiding officer
The person who controls the debate in the Chamber or the running of select committee meetings. The Speaker, Chairperson of the committee of the whole House, or another member acting in their place are the presiding officers in the Chamber. The chairperson is the presiding officer for select committee meetings.

press gallery
The seating area above the Chamber for accredited media. It is also the collective term for media who report exclusively on Parliament’s proceedings.

Prime Minister
The leader of the Government. The Prime Minister is usually the leader of the political party with the most members in the House.

private bill
A bill put forward by an individual or group seeking a change to the law for their personal benefit. A private bill is sponsored by an MP.

An official declaration of the Sovereign or Governor-General. For example, when summoning Parliament to meet for the first time following a general election.

The ending of a session of Parliament by proclamation without triggering a general election. Prorogation permits a new session to occur within the same term of Parliament, starting with another State Opening. (Compare with dissolution)

A general term for an element of a bill, such as a clause, subclause, part or schedule.


questions for oral answer
See Oral questions.

questions for written answer
See written questions.

question time
See oral questions.


A formal stage in the process of considering a bill, where the House orders that the title of the bill be read out. This must occur three times for a bill before it is considered to have been passed by the House.

The period of time between sessions of Parliament. (Compare with adjournment.)

To refer a bill back to the committee of the whole House or a select committee for further consideration.

regulatory impact statement (RIS)
A summary of the responsible agency's advice given at the time decisions were made leading to the creation of a bill. The explanatory note of a bill may include, or link to, a regulatory impact statement.

A mechanism that allows registered electors to vote on a matter of public policy.

Register of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests
A register of member’s assets and financial interests. It is intended to promote accountability and transparency by identifying interests that might influence members.

Laws made by a person or organisation, such as the Governor-General, a Minister, or a government agency, under the authorisation of Parliament. Regulations, also known as delegated or subordinate legislation, are scrutinised by the Regulations Review Committee.

Representation Commission
An independent statutory body that reviews and redraws electorate boundaries.

A formal decision made by the House of Representatives or a committee.

responsible government
The system in which the Government is accountable to the House of Representatives and must have the support of the majority of the members of the House. Accountability includes question time, a select committee’s consideration of a bill or the Government’s spending plans, or consideration a confidence motion. (See also confidence)

Royal assent
The signature of the Sovereign or Governor-General. Royal assent is needed before a bill that has been passed by the House can become an Act of Parliament.

Rubber door
The Parliament House ground floor entrance off the parliamentary forecourt.

An authoritative decision made by a presiding officer about a matter of procedure.


An appendix to a bill, setting out matters too detailed to be included in the main body of the bill.

schedule of meetings
A list of select committee meeting due to occur during a one week period and the items of business each committee is due to consider. Sessions that are open to the public are indicated by an asterisk (*).

second reading
The second stage (debate) in the passing of a bill. The second reading usually occurs after a bill has been considered by a select committee and discusses any amendments proposed by the committee.

Distinct, numbered blocks of text that together form an Act of Parliament that may be grouped into parts. (See clauses)

select committee
A committee whose membership is confined to a limited number of members. There are 13 subject select committees, each of which deals with a particular subject area.

Select Committee Services
A part of the Office of the Clerk that provides procedural, report-writing, and administrative support to each select committee.

A permanent officer of the House of Representatives. The Serjeant-at-Arms maintains order in the House and galleries. He or she also leads the Speaker into the Chamber each sitting day carrying the Mace over their right shoulder.

A grouping of sitting days from an Opening of Parliament until the prorogation of Parliament or the end of a term of Parliament. Until the 1990s there tended to be one session or more each calendar year. Now there is usually only one session in each Parliament.

Sessional orders
Temporary rules that supplement or suspend Standing Orders. (see also Standing Orders)

sitting day
A day on which the House meets. The House usually sits on Tuesday and Wednesday from 2pm to 6pm and 7.30pm to 10pm and on Thursday from 2pm to 6pm. The House can sit on a Friday and Saturday, but not on a Sunday.

The King or Queen of New Zealand. The Governor-General represents the Sovereign in New Zealand.

The principal presiding officer of the House of Representatives. The Speaker is a member of Parliament who has been elected to that role by the other members. The Speaker represents the House to the Sovereign and Governor-General. A Deputy Speaker or an Assistant Speaker may perform the Speaker’s role when he or she is absent.

Speaker’s Rulings
Rulings made by the Speaker explaining how Standing Orders should be applied or interpreted.

Speech from the Throne
A speech made by the Sovereign or Governor-General to officially open a session of Parliament. The Speech from the Throne outlines the Government's legislative and policy plans.

Standing Orders
Rules made by the House that govern its proceedings and its committees. (see also Speaker’s Rulings and Sessional orders)

State Opening of Parliament
The ceremonial occasion when the Governor-General delivers the Speech from the Throne to open a new session of Parliament.

Another word for an Act of Parliament.

See evidence.

submitter's list
A list of organisations or individuals due to appear before select committees during a one week period.

subordinate legislation
See regulations.

Supplementary Estimates
A statement of further amounts to be spent by Government departments, Officers of Parliament, Crown entities, State enterprises, and public organisations in the current financial year in addition to the details of spending contained in the Estimates. This spending must be approved by an Appropriation Bill.

Supplementary Order Paper (SOP)
A paper that is published and circulated to members showing an amendment or amendments proposed by a Minister or member to a bill being considered by the committee of the whole House or a select committee.


Table, The
The large table in front of and below the Speaker's Chair in the Chamber. Parliamentary papers, such as bills and budget documents, needed by members for a sitting of the House are placed on the Table.

To formally present a document to the House. Documents are tabled to provide members with additional information.

Table Office
A part of the Office of the Clerk that provides procedural help to members in the Chamber and their staff.

The member who records member’s votes in a personal vote. There is one teller for the Ayes and one for the Noes.

term of Parliament
The period from the Opening of Parliament after a general election until the Parliament ends (either by dissolution or expiration).

third reading
The last stage (debate) in the passing of a bill. On being passed, a bill receives the Royal assent. When a bill has received Royal assent, it becomes law.


A description of a parliament, like New Zealand’s, that consists of a single House or legislative chamber. New Zealand’s Parliament was bicameral (consisting of two Houses) until the Legislative Council, or Upper House, was abolished in 1951.

A mechanism that gives the Government extra time in the House to progress matters that need to be urgently addressed. Under urgency, the House may pass identified items of business through more than one stage. (compare with extended sitting and extraordinary urgency)

Usher of the Black Rod
See Black Rod, Usher of the.


valedictory statement
The last speech made by a member in the Chamber before they resign or retire.

voice vote
The result of a vote as initially declared by the presiding officer. If no member then calls for a party vote or a personal vote, the decision is regarded as unanimous.

Motions are put to a vote, which can be a voice vote, party vote, or personal vote.

Vote (Estimates)
Part of an Appropriation Bill containing details of the authority to spend public money or incur expenses in a particular area. For example, Vote Health.

vote of confidence
See confidence, vote of.


A member who acts as a party manager. Whips prepare lists of members from their party to speak in the Chamber and ensure that members of their party are present in the Chamber when needed. They can also cast votes on behalf of their parties. (see also musterer)

whip slip
A note from a whip or party leader to the Clerk authorising the temporary replacement of one member by another at a select committee meeting. Whip slips can also record apologies for a member’s absence.

written questions
Questions lodged by members for Ministers to answer in writing, which must relate to matters for which the Ministers are responsible. Replies must be provided within 6 working days. Questions and replies are published on the Parliament website.