Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives

In New Zealand, the Speaker of the House of Representatives (Māori: Te Mana Whakawā o te Whare) is the individual who chairs the country's elected legislative body, the New Zealand House of Representatives. The individual who holds the position is elected by members of the House from among their number in the first session after each general election. He or she holds one of the highest-ranking offices in New Zealand. The current Speaker is Trevor Mallard, who was initially elected on 7 November 2017.

Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives
Rt Hon Trevor Mallard

since 7 November 2017
StyleThe Right Honourable
ResidenceSpeaker's Apartments, Parliament House, Wellington
NominatorNew Zealand House of Representatives
AppointerGovernor-General of New Zealand at the behest of the House of Representatives
Term lengthAt Her Majesty's pleasure
elected by the House at the start of each Parliament, and upon a vacancy
Inaugural holderSir Charles Clifford
WebsiteOffice of the Speaker
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The speaker's role in presiding over New Zealand's House of Representatives is similar to that of speakers elsewhere in other countries that use the Westminster system. The speaker presides over the House's debates, determining which members may speak; the speaker is also responsible for maintaining order during debate, and may discipline members who break the rules of the House. Aside from duties relating to presiding over the House, the speaker also performs administrative and procedural functions, and remains a Member of Parliament (MP).


In the debating chamber

The speaker's most visible role is that of presiding over the House of Representatives when it is in session.[1] The speaker presides from the elevated 'Speaker's Chair' behind the Table in the debating chamber.[2] This involves overseeing the order in which business is conducted, and determining who should speak at what time. The speaker is also responsible for granting or declining requests for certain events, such as a snap debate on a particular issue.[3]

An important part of the speaker's role is enforcing discipline in the House.[1] The speaker defers to 'Standing Orders', which are the written rules of conduct governing the business of the House. Included in these rules are certain powers available to the speaker to ensure reasonable behaviour by MPs, including the ability to order disruptive MPs to leave the debating chamber.[4] If an MP feels one of these rules has been breached by another member, he or she can interrupt a debate by using a procedure known as a 'point of order'.[4] The speaker must then determine whether the complaint is just. Earlier Speaker's rulings on similar points of order are referred to in considering the point raised. The clerk of the House, who sits directly in front of the speaker, assists the speaker in making such rulings.[4]

By convention, speakers have traditionally been addressed inside the debating chamber as "Mr Speaker" or "Madam Speaker".[5]

Outside the debating chamber

The speaker is also responsible for directing and overseeing the administration and security of the buildings and grounds of Parliament (including the Beehive, Parliament House, Bowen House and the Parliamentary Library building), and the general provision of services to members.[6] In doing so, the speaker consults and receives advice from the Parliamentary Service Commission, which comprises MPs from across the House.[7]

As the most senior office of Parliament, the speaker has other statutory responsibilities, for example under the Electoral Act 1993.[8] In this role a portion of the Parliament Buildings are given over to the speaker. Known as the Speaker's Apartments these include his personal office, sitting rooms for visiting dignitaries and a small residential flat which the speaker may or may not use as living quarters.

The speaker chairs three select committees:

  • the Standing Orders Committee
  • the Business Committee
  • the Officers of Parliament Committee.[6]

The Business Committee chaired by the speaker controls the organisation of the business of the House. Also on the committee, established after the first MMP election in 1996, is the leader of the House, the Opposition shadow leader and the whips of each party.


The speaker is expected to conduct the functions of the office in a neutral manner, even though the speaker is generally a member of the governing party.[1] Only three people have held the office despite not being from the governing party. In 1923, Charles Statham (an independent, but formerly a member of the Reform Party) was backed by Reform so as not to endanger the party's slim majority, and later retained his position under the Liberal Party. In 1993, Peter Tapsell (a member of the Labour Party) was backed by the National Party for the same reason. Bill Barnard, who had been elected Speaker in 1936, resigned from the Labour Party in 1940 but retained his position.

Historically, a speaker lost the right to cast a vote, except when both sides were equally balanced. The speaker's lack of a vote created problems for a governing party – when the party's majority was small, the loss of the speaker's vote could be problematic. Since the shift to MMP in 1996, however, the speaker has been counted for the purposes of casting party votes, to reflect the proportionality of the party's vote in the general election. The practice has also been for the speaker to participate in personal votes, usually by proxy.[9] In the event of a tied vote the motion in question lapses.


The speaker is always a member of Parliament, and is elected to the position by other members of Parliament at the beginning of a parliamentary term. If the office becomes vacant during a parliamentary term then the House must elect a new speaker when it next sits.[6]

The election of a speaker is presided over by the clerk of the House. It is not unusual for an election to be contested. If there are two candidates, members vote in the lobbies for their preferred candidate. In the case of three or more candidates, a roll-call vote is conducted and the candidate with the fewest votes eliminated, with the process continuing (or reverting to a two-way run-off) until one candidate has a majority. Members may vote only if they are present in person: no proxy votes are permitted.[4]

It is traditional for the speaker to 'pretend' he or she did not want to accept the position. Upon election the Speaker is 'dragged' to the Speaker's Chair[10] in a practice dating from the days when British speakers risked execution if the news they reported to the king was displeasing.[11]

After being elected by the House, the speaker-elect is confirmed in office by the governor-general.[12] At the start of a term of Parliament, the newly confirmed speaker follows the tradition of claiming the privileges of the House.

Precedence, salary and privileges

Each day, prior to the sitting of the House of Representatives, the speaker and other officials travel in procession from the speaker's personal apartments to the debating chamber. The procession includes the doorkeeper, the serjeant-at-arms, the speaker and the speaker's assistant. When the speaker reaches the chamber, the serjeant-at-arms announces the Speaker's arrival and places the Mace on the Table of the House.[6]

As of 2013, the annual salary is NZ$268,500.[13]

The office is third most important constitutionally, after the governor-general and the prime minister.[14] (See New Zealand order of precedence.)

Official dress

Originally, speakers wore a gown and formal wig in the chamber. This practice has fallen into disuse since the 1990s.[15] Speakers now generally wear what they feel appropriate, usually an academic gown of their highest held degree or a Māori cloak.[16]

Holders of the office

The current Speaker is Trevor Mallard, a member of the Labour Party.

Since the creation of Parliament, 29 people have held the office of speaker. Two people have held the office on more than one occasion. A full list of speakers is below.


† indicates Speaker died in office.

  Independent   Liberal   Reform   United   Labour   Democratic Labour   National

No. Name Portrait Term of Office Prime Minister
1 Sir Charles Clifford 31 May 1854 12 December 1860 Sewell
2 David Monro 28 March 1861 13 September 1870 Fox
3 Dillon Bell 23 February 1871 21 October 1875
4 William Fitzherbert 29 January 1876 11 August 1879 Vogel
5 Maurice O'Rorke 24 September 1879 17 September 1890 Hall
6 William Steward 23 January 1891 8 November 1893 Ballance
(5) Maurice O'Rorke 21 June 1894 3 October 1902
7 Arthur Guinness 29 June 1903 10 June 1913†
8 Frederic Lang 10 June 1913 31 October 1922
9 Charles Statham 7 February 1923 1 November 1935
10 Bill Barnard 27 November 1935 25 September 1943 Savage
11 Bill Schramm 25 September 1943 12 October 1946
12 Robert McKeen 24 June 1947 21 October 1949
13 Matthew Oram 27 June 1950 25 October 1957 Holland
14 Robert Macfarlane 21 January 1958 28 October 1960 Nash
15 Ronald Algie 20 June 1961 26 November 1966 Holyoake
16 Roy Jack 26 April 1967 7 June 1972
17 Alfred E. Allen 7 June 1972 26 October 1972
18 Stanley Whitehead 14 February 1973 10 October 1975 Kirk
(16) Roy Jack 22 June 1976 24 December 1977† Muldoon
19 Richard Harrison 24 December 1977 14 July 1984
20 Basil Arthur 14 July 1984 1 May 1985† Lange
21 Gerard Wall 1 May 1985 15 August 1987
22 Kerry Burke 15 August 1987 6 November 1990
23 Robin Gray 27 October 1990 6 November 1993 Bolger
24 Peter Tapsell 7 November 1993 12 October 1996
25 Doug Kidd 12 October 1996 5 December 1999
26 Jonathan Hunt 5 December 1999 3 March 2005 Clark
27 Margaret Wilson 3 March 2005 8 November 2008
28 Lockwood Smith 8 November 2008 1 February 2013 Key
29 David Carter 1 February 2013 7 November 2017
30 Trevor Mallard 7 November 2017 Incumbent Ardern


Three other chair occupants deputise for the Speaker:

Between 1854 and 1992, the Chairman of Committees chaired the House when in Committee of the whole House (i.e., taking a bill's committee stage) and presided in the absence of the Speaker or when the Speaker so requested. These arrangements were based on those of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.[17] Until 1992, the Chairman of Committees was known as the Deputy Speaker only when presiding over the House. That year, the position of Deputy Speaker was made official, and the role of Chairman of Committees was discontinued.[18] The first Deputy Speaker was appointed on 10 November 1992.[19]

See also


  1. "The Speaker". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 15 July 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  2. "Guide to the debating chamber". New Zealand House of Representatives. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  3. Mulgan, R. G.; Aimer, Peter (2004). Politics in New Zealand. Auckland University Press. p. 105. ISBN 9781869403188.
  4. "Standing Orders of the House of Representatives" (PDF). New Zealand Parliament. pp. 39–40. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  5. Parliamentary Debates. New Zealand Parliament.
  6. "Role & election of the Speaker". New Zealand Parliament.
  7. "Parliamentary Service Commission". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  8. "Electoral Act 1993 No 87 (as at 01 May 2017), Public Act Contents". www.legislation.govt.nz. New Zealand Legislation. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  9. "Conscience votes". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  10. "Carter elected Speaker of the House". Stuff.co.nz. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  11. "Rules and traditions of Parliament". parliament.co.uk. UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  12. "Speaker confirmation ceremony". gg.govt.nz. The Governor-General of New Zealand. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  13. "Parliamentary Salaries and Allowances Determination 2013 (SR 2013/462) (as at 26 February 2015) Schedule 1 Salaries payable under section 16 of Civil List Act 1979". www.legislation.govt.nz. New Zealand Legislation. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  14. "Office of the Speaker". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  15. "The Speaker". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 15 July 2014. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  16. "NZ Prime Minister Gets Thrown Out of Parliament". Lowering the Bar. 12 May 2016. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  17. McLintock 1966.
  18. "Members' Conditions Of Service". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 19 February 2011.
  19. "Speaker of the House of Representatives". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 19 February 2011.


  • McLintock, A. H., ed. (1966). "Meeting of Parliament". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand (updated 22 April 2009 ed.). Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 19 February 2011.
  • Scholefield, Guy (1950) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer.
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