The Office of The Speaker in The
Parliaments of The Commonwealth, by Philip A.C. Laundy, London, Quiller Press,
1984, 274 p.
Philip Laundy, with the generous support of the
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, has written a book concerning the
development of the Speakership in member nations of the Commonwealth.
Despite the transition from colonial to
independent status of many countries the Commonwealth, the parliamentary system
inherited from the United Kingdom ' has usually been retained (although to
varying degrees depending upon circumstances in each country). There is,
however, one common thread throughout and that thread, which continues to link
the many diverse nations together, is the Office of the Speaker. It lies at the
heart of the parliamentary system and that is the basic thesis of this book.
At the outset, Mr. Laundy reviews the
historical perspective of the Speakership in England from 1377 to the twentieth
century. This chapter is basically a condensed version of his earlier work; The
Office of Speaker. He traces the evolution of the Speaker's role and powers
established by the concerted actions of the various occupants of the Chair.
In Part Two, the reader is introduced to the
Speakership of some 40 countries which comprise the Commonwealth Nations. In
each case Mr. Laundy describes the evolution of their Speakership from the
moment of its inception, to the present. Needless to say for the larger, more longer
developed nations, the narrative is extensive in contrast to that of the
smaller, newer members of the Commonwealth. In each the Speakership is examined
within the following context: the evolution of the office, its roles, powers
and responsibilities; Speakers; election in the country and subsequent election
in the House; and political affiliations. For those nations that have provinces
or states, brief notes about their Speakers and differences are commented upon.
Many interesting facts and practices are
included in this book. In the United Kingdom chapter, there is considerable
discussion of the tradition of not opposing a Speaker at either general
elections or elections in the House of Commons. Another distinction between
Canadian and Westminster practice is that the retiring Speaker in the United
Kingdom presides over the election of his successor while in Canada this role
is performed by the Clerk of the House.
In Australia the Clerk, while presiding over
the election of a Speaker, has certain powers not existing elsewhere in the
Commonwealth including a casting vote, ruling on the admissibility of a motion
and calling for the withdrawal of offensive words. Also, from Australia comes
the example of the government failing to support the authority of the Speaker
after he had named a member (who was Minister of the Crown). The House defeated
a motion for the Minister's suspension, whereupon the Speaker resigned.
At the Lok Sabba in India, the Speaker has
powers that quite exceed those of our Canadian Speaker. He can regulate the
proceedings of the House, determine the day and hour of sittings and assist the
House Leader in determining the order of business.
In the remaining pages in very rapid
succession, the author makes mention of the African parliaments from Zambia to
Zimbabwe. From here, he moves quickly to the Office of Speaker of Sri Lanka and
Singapore then to such diverse nations as Belizie, Malta and then finally to
the smallest but perhaps the oldest of all, the Isle of Man.
As Mr. Laundy threads his way through the
various parliaments from Westminster to the Tynwald, there emerges one
fundamental idea. Although the Speakership may not be identical in all nations
it remains essentially faithful to the original model of Westminster. That is
perhaps one reason parliamentarians in all Commonwealth nations are able to
identify readily with their counterparts in other nations.
This book makes interesting general reading
for students of parliamentary government and is essential for those studying
the Parliaments of the Commonwealth.
G.A. "Sandy" Birch, Committees and Private Legislation Branch, House of