What is the Office of the Speaker?
The Office of the Speaker is the highest and most important in the House. The Speaker occupies the foremost place and commands respect internally from among Parliamentarians and also externally from the public in general.
Appointment of the Speaker
The election of the Speaker is provided for in the constitution of the country. The Speaker is elected by members of Parliament at the first sitting of a new Parliament. The Constitution says,When Parliament first meets after any dissolution of Parliament and before it proceeds to the dispatch of any other business, it shall elect a presiding officer to be known as the Speaker. The candidate for speakership should be a person who would have once been or is a current Member of Parliament. The person should not be a cabinet or Deputy Minister. Non members of Parliament can qualify for election as Speaker only if they meet the requirements to be elected as a Member of Parliament.
The Term of Office of the Speaker
The term of office of the Speaker is as long as the life of Parliament, which is five years. The Speaker can be re-elected at the end of the five years for another five year term. The constitution does not limit the number of times the Speaker can be re-elected.
Duties of the Speaker
The Speaker is the presiding officer of Parliament and as such must act with both authority and impartiality. The Speaker's role in the House is to run the proceedings. The Speaker maintains order, puts questions after debate and conducts divisions (voting in the House). In maintaining order the Speaker interprets and applies the Standing Orders and practice of the House by making rulings and decisions. A decision of the Speaker may only be challenged by motion of dissent. By custom, the Speaker does not participate in debates.
The Speaker is the mouthpiece for the House, conveying messages and addresses from the House to the State President. The Speaker is also responsible for upholding the rights and privileges of Members and the House.
The Speaker has extensive administrative functions, being responsible for the overall direction of the Parliament. In this, the Speaker is advised by the Clerk of Parliament.
The Authority of the Speaker
The authority of the Speaker is symbolized by the golden mace that is placed on the table of the House.
The Chairperson of Committees
The Chairperson of Committees, who is usually the Deputy Speaker, has the principal responsibility of chairing proceedings in the Committee of the Whole House when bills are considered in detail and amendments are made in the House. The Chairperson and Temporary Chairpersons (5 are nominated by the Speaker) may be asked by the Speaker to take the Chair of the House from time to time.
The Chairperson's authority in Committee is less than of the Speaker in the House. In the case of disorderly behaviour, the Chairperson cannot take any action other than naming a member. The case is then considered in the House with the Speaker in the Chair. If a ruling from the Chairperson is objected to, the matter may be reported to the Speaker who will make a ruling. While in Committee the Chairperson only has a casting vote.