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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Powers of the House of Representatives

In 1962 the main constitutional restraint on the elected House is the need to submit all Bills for the Governor-General's assent. This is a formal, not a political limitation, since a Governor-General's refusal to sign a Bill would create or indicate a constitutional crisis. There are apparent limitations on Parliamentary sovereignty in the Constitution Act of 1852, which provide for reservation of any Bill for the Queen's assent and for disallowance by the Queen through Order-in-Council. These provisions remain on the Statute Book, but, by understanding reached at the Imperial Conference of 1930, are dead letters. In any case, they could be abolished by Parliament at any time without special procedures.

One presently effective disallowance provision is contained in a New Zealand Act (subject therefore to repeal by the New Zealand Parliament). The New Zealand Loans Amendment Act 1947 confirms an undertaking given to the Imperial Government that legislation which appears to the Imperial Government to damage the rights of holders of New Zealand Government securities will not be submitted for assent without the consent of the Imperial Government. As a result of this undertaking New Zealand Government securities rank as trustee securities in Britain.

A number of clauses in the Electoral Act of 1956 are entrenched by one of the clauses of the Act. The clauses relating to the duration of Parliament, the Representation Commission, the delimiting of districts, the franchise, and voting methods are enumerated, and it is required that no reserved provision may be repealed or amended except by a 75 per cent majority of the House or by a majority poll of the electorate. It is a general, though occasionally disputed, principle of constitutions on the Westminster model that one parliament may not bind another but it is impossible to say what the legal or political effect would be if a New Zealand Parliament were to ignore this attempt at entrenchment. As, however, the entrenching clause is not itself entrenched, a future Parliament could avoid contravening it by repealing it.

Evidently the real limitations on the powers of Parliament are political rather than legal. The New Zealand political heritage is the British political heritage, one which tends to inhibit governments as against drastic change of any kind unless they can be sure of popular support.