The Canadian Parliamentary Review has just published an article by the Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives, Lockwood Smith, which he based on a speech that delivered in 2010.
In “The Speakership: A New Zealand Perspective”, Smith reviews the history of the Speakership and Parliament and argues that Sir William Lenthal’s famous response to Charles I means that the Speaker as servant of the House means far more than simply acquiescing to the will of the majority. Smith sees the Speakership as a constitutional guardian and, in New Zealand, as the veritable Minister of the Parliamentary Service. Above all, the Speaker must facilitate the core function of the House of Representatives: to hold the Minister of the Crown to account for its expenditures.
Of course the monarchy was restored in 1660 with Charles II followed by James II, but religious tensions saw Parliament at odds with the Crown until the glorious revolution in 1688 and the passage of the Bill of Rights Act. It was the start of the constitutional monarchy and, in 1690, the Commons took control over the Crown’s use of revenue as well as taxation.
Those crucial separations of power so fiercely fought for over hundreds of years, remain today and establish, to my mind, the breadth and depth of the Speaker’s role. The role is not just chairing or presiding over the House. It is, in its full context, about ensuring the House of Representatives is free and able to function effectively both as a legislature and in the vital role of holding the Crown or Executive to account. This view of the Speaker’s role guides my interpretation of Standing Orders and also my role as “Minister” responsible for the Parliamentary Service.
Lockwood Smith is a true parliamentarist.
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