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OFFICERS OF THE HOUSE.

The discussion ou Tuesday in Committee of Supply on the Estimates raises the important question as to whether the appointment, promotion, and removal of officers of the House of Representatives should vest in the Speaker, on behalf of the House, or with the Ministry of the day. The question was a vexed one for many yea'rs, but was virtually settled on its present basis in 1893, when long discussions took place on the action of the Premier (Mr Seddon) in insisting on taking into his own hands the appointment of the 'Hansard 1 reporters. The matter eventually culminated in the setting up, on the motion of Sir John Hall, of a Committee of Privilege, to which was referred the correspondence between the Speaker and the. Government relative to the appointment of ' Hansard' reporters. The Teport, in regard to the main issue, was in approval of the attitude of Mr Seddok, but was- by no means unanimously agreed to by the Committee, since we find Sir John Hall, Sir Robert Stout, Mi- George Hutchison, and Captain Russell voting or pairing against its adoption by the House, which was carried by a majority of three only after a long and somewhat acrimonious debate, although the Premier made it a Ministerial question.

! The report set forth that the House, having directed by resolution in passing the Legislative Estimates for I§9l that the vote be reduced by £l. as an indication that these Estimates should be uuder the control of the Government, " there was "therefore no invasion of the privi- " leges of the House in the Govern"ment appointing 'Hansard' reporters "Gore and Russell," and "that the resolution referred to practically set aside any decision referred to on the same subject in the session of 1862, and was in keeping with- the report of a committee of the House in 1888. "Further, " that permanent officers of the House are " ordinary Civil servants, and the Esti- " mates are presented to Parliament by "Her Majesty's command and upon the "responsibility of Ministers of the "Crown. Mr Speaker is not in the "position of a Minister of the Crown, "nor has he or any other officer any "authority to vary the appropriation " of.any of the votes. . . . That with "the view of promoting economy in the "public expenditure it is advisable that "the Government should continue, as "directed by the resolution of 1891, to "have charge of the Legislative Esti- " mates." The Committee expressed approval of the employment of officers of the ' Hansard' staff during the recess, " so as " to enable the Government to lessen the " officers otherwise employed without efl'ect- " ing the efficiency of the Government ser- " vice," and itwasrecommendedthatfortwo weeks before and during the session and for one month afterwards the ' Hansard' staff should be under.the control of the Speaker and the Printing Committee, "and that for two weeks before and "during the session and for one month " thereafter all other officers of the House " and Council bo under the control of the " respective Speakers." The effect .of the adoption of this report was uuqestionably to vest the appointment and. control of the officers of the House in the Government, and it was strongly opposed on these grounds by the members of the Committco abovo named, who voted in the minority, and it was well known in tho lobbies that the then Speaker. (Major Steward) was dead against tho change. The object of Mr Seddon was distinctly clear, and has been demonstrated by results. He desired to obtain all tho patronage ho could get, and, as a matter of fact, the messenger staff of the House is, and has for some time been, practically a West. Coast colony. The debate on the report of tho Committee was, as we have noted above, a very lengthy one, and many admirable speeches were made on the constitutional side. We can only refer, however, to that of Sir Robert Stodt, which was in his best style, and put the points with precision and force. He did put upon the vote of 1891, reducing the Legislative : Estimates the interpretation of the Committee, but declared that the resolution of 1862 stood good, and that there had been but one rule since the establishment of Responsible Government in New ■Zealand—namely, "that our Legislative " officers are kept apart and distinct from " our Executive officers, and our Executive " has no control over them." In this respect, he went on to Bay, the New Zealand Parliament had followed all English-speaking Legislatures. It was so in the United States, not only in. the Senate and the Hou3e of Representatives, but in each separate State Legislature. It was so in all the colonies—in Victoria, New South _ Walesj South Australia, in Tasmania, in Queensland, in Canada, and the Cape of Good Hope. "There "is no exception to this rule that the "Government of the day ought not to " have control of the Legislative officers ; "and that is the point at stake now." What, he continued, is the theory that underlies the whole matter 1 It is this: that there are three powers in the Colony —the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial and " a properly-constituted "Government really means that these " three powers are independent of each " other." The reasonable demand of himself and those with whom he was acting, he declared, was first, that the appointment of officers of the House should be on the recommendation of the Speaker. If the Minister declined, for reasons good and sufficient to himself, to accept the recommendation, then the matter could be brought before the House and discussed. What tho Premier sought to affirm by moving that the report bo adopted was, Sir Robert said, that the Government are to recommend the appointment to the Governor without reference to the Speaker at all, and to entirely ignore the Legislature. This is exactly what Mr Seddon has consistently done ever since.. The appointments to 'Hansard' have not in all cases been unobjectionable, and in regard to minor offices the Premier has appointed h'a friends to them at his own will and pleasure ; assuming also complete authority over the officers of the House, except during the session and a week or two before and after. No one would deny his responsibility for the Estimates, and his right, as Treasurer, to revise the Legislative items, but they should be prepared by the Speaker, and not be altered without due cause and explanation to the House of the why and wherefore. ' ■ * ■ The discussion on Tuesday evening in Committee of Supply, may, we hope, induce a resettlement of-the whole question, which involves matters of principle far more important than ;any alleged." abuses of patronage, for wHich'there may

or may not be grounds. The Prime Minister has promised that an opportunity shall be afforded for reconsideration of the decision of 1893; but this will not amount to much if he has determined that there shall not be a reversion to the rule previously in force under the resolution of 18G2, and rounds up the Ministerial majority to support his will.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18971104.2.2

Bibliographic details

OFFICERS OF THE HOUSE., Evening Star, Issue 10462, 4 November 1897

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1,176

OFFICERS OF THE HOUSE. Evening Star, Issue 10462, 4 November 1897

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