The Speaker is the Member of Parliament that the House of Representatives chooses to communicate with the Sovereign on its behalf. The Speaker's role includes chairing meetings in the House and certain select committees. The Speaker acts as landlord for Parliament’s buildings and represents the House to international and other important visitors.
Learn more about the role of the Speaker and how the Speaker is elected.
The Speaker is the spokesperson for the House on ceremonial and formal occasions, for example, when an address is presented to the Crown. The ceremonial part of the role adds considerable dignity to the proceedings of the House.
Just before 2 p.m. each sitting day, the corridors between the Speaker's office and the Chamber are cleared to make way for the Speaker’s formal procession to the Chamber. The Speaker is accompanied by the Speaker's Assistant and the Serjeant-at-Arms carrying the Mace.
When the Speaker reaches the House, the Serjeant-at-Arms announces the Speaker's arrival and places the Mace on the Table of the House.
The Speaker then reads the prayer and the sitting of the House begins.
The Speaker chairs meetings of the House. To ensure the orderly flow of business, the House observes parliamentary rules and traditions, both written and unwritten. The Speaker must interpret these rules impartially to maintain order and to defend the rights and privileges of MPs. The Speaker chooses who will be invited to speak in debates so that business is conducted in an orderly way. To do this fairly, the Speaker must balance the interests and demands of MPs from all political parties, before deciding who will be invited to speak next.
The Speaker must also decide on matters of procedure. For example, the Speaker must decide when an application for emergency debate is appropriate, or whether to allow an urgent question, or a complaint about breach of privilege.
In addition to calling who will speak next, the Speaker is often asked to decide ‘points of order’. This is when a member asks whether the rules of the House (Standing Orders) are being observed correctly.
Standing Orders are the written rules of conduct that govern the business of the House. If a member feels one of these 402 rules has been breached by another member, he or she stands and raises a point of order. The Speaker must then decide whether the complaint is just.
The Speaker has the power to suspend the sitting of the House in the case of grave disorder. If a member is wilfully disobedient the Speaker can suspend the member from the House. This is called ‘naming’.
The Speaker chairs three select committees:
- Business Committee
- Standing Orders Committee
- Officers of Parliament Committee
The first two of these committees deal with procedural matters. The third recommends the supply of funds for the offices of the Auditor-General, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, and the Ombudsman.
The Speaker also chairs the Parliamentary Service Commission, which is responsible for the administrative support that members require.
The Speaker technically owns all of Parliament's grounds and buildings — Parliament House, the Parliamentary Library, the Beehive, and the lease on Bowen House. The Speaker is responsible for allocating office space in these buildings, and for regulating access by the media and public to the buildings. The Speaker gives approval for some visitors to have access to public areas within the parliamentary precinct, without having to go through security clearance each time they visit.
All of New Zealand's relations with other parliaments are carried out through the Speaker's office. It is usual for delegations from other parliaments and ambassadors to call on the Speaker. The Speaker also assists our parliamentarians when they visit other parliaments.
Members of Parliament vote to elect the Speaker at the start of each new Parliament (after every general election). This is the first task of every new Parliament once members have been sworn in.
Candidates are nominated by another member and, after the election vote, the Speaker-Elect visits the Governor-General to be confirmed in office.
The position of Speaker is high-ranking — the Speaker commands the respect of other members. This is because the Speaker is the member that the House chooses to communicate with the Sovereign on its behalf.
It is important that the elected Speaker is not biased towards any political party. This ensures that every member of Parliament has an equal chance to contribute to debates and take part in other business in the House.
Despite this, the Speaker of New Zealand’s House of Representatives is allowed to maintain links with their political party, but must not show political bias when chairing business in the House. The Speaker must not show either preference or disrespect for any political party, for the Government, or the Opposition. All members of the House must be treated equally.