On Wednesday 11 November the Deputy Speaker delivered a ruling on a matter of privilege concerning reflections on the Speaker in comments made by Andrew Little and Chris Hipkins. The full ruling is as follows:
Members, two matters of privilege relating to comments about the Speaker, reported to have been made by Andrew Little and Chris Hipkins, have been raised as matters of privilege by Tim Macindoe. Because the matters relate to the Speaker, he has asked me to consider and rule on them. It is suggested that the comments complained of could each amount to contempt of the House in that they reflect on the Speaker in his capacity as Speaker.
In two news articles, Mr Little is reported to have stated that the Speaker has “a reputation in short order of acting politically in the way he handles question time” and “National has clearly had a word in the Speaker’s ear, leading him to make an unprecedented decision to stop the bill being read this year”, and, further, “the ruling raises serious questions about political interference.” A news article reported Chris Hipkins as saying “the Speaker is interfering on their behalf to ensure the Government does not face that embarrassment” and “[t]his is massive political interference in the parliamentary process by the Speaker”.
The matters of privilege raised are significant ones. The Privileges Committee, in its recent report, stated that “reflections against the Speaker or other presiding officers, and in particular any comment that alleges that they have been biased in performing their duties, are among the most serious reflections that can be made about members.” I have considered the matters raised and considered their degree of importance. In my view, allegations that the Speaker acts on the instruction of the Government and interferes in parliamentary process for political reasons are serious matters that suggest that the Speaker is not only biased in performing his duties but is open to partisan manipulation.
The comments complained of were not made in the heat of debate but were premeditated. As experienced politicians, they went to the media. The members concerned have not withdrawn the comments or resiled from them in any way, but have sought to mitigate them by making comparison with comments by other members on other occasions. It is for the Privileges Committee to determine whether such comments amount to contempt. Consequently, I rule that a question of privilege does arise from the comments reportedly made by Mr Little and that they may constitute a reflection on the Speaker in his capacity as Speaker. I also rule that a question of privilege arises from the comments reportedly made by Mr Hipkins in that they may constitute a reflection on the Speaker in his capacity as Speaker. The questions therefore stand referred to the Privileges Committee. I will now vacate the Chair—[Interruption] I am not seeking applause—for Mr Speaker to conduct the general business of the House.