Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Apologies issued to Parliament's Speaker accepted

Labour MPs have apologised to Speaker, David Carter. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Labour MPs have apologised to Speaker, David Carter. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Apologies from Labour MPs for calling Parliament's Speaker political and biased have been accepted by the privileges committee.

There will be no further action, after Parliament's business committee ruled that the questions of privilege not be set down for debate.

In December, Labour's Ruth Dyson joined leader Andrew Little and MP and chief whip Chris Hipkins in being referred to Parliament's privileges committee for criticising Speaker David Carter.

Dyson had tweeted that Carter was incompetent, biased and sexist.

The comments came after Carter did not make Prime Minister John Key apologise for accusing Labour of "backing the rapists", amid debate about Kiwis being held in detention centres in Australia.

The Dyson tweet happened less than two months after the privileges committee came up with a set of rules explicitly stating that tweets criticising the Speaker were a serious matter.

In November, Little and Hipkins found themselves in hot water after criticising Carter's decision to block one of its members' bills from going before Parliament this year.

Hipkins accused the Speaker of "massive political interference in the parliamentary process".

The heat was largely removed from the Labour MPs' comments on the final day of Parliament last year, when Key apologised for and withdrew his "backing the rapists" comments.

After that apology, Little announced that the party had written to the privileges committee to say that the comments made by some Labour MPs were unparliamentary, and expressing regret for them.

Carter thanked Little sincerely.

In a decision released today, the privileges committee, chaired by National MP Chris Finlayson, recommended that the House accept the expressions of regret by the Labour politicians, and take no further action.

"We recognise that it is never acceptable for members to reflect on the Speaker or other presiding officer in a way which alleges bias or otherwise brings the House into disrepute," the ruling stated.

"However, the context for these three questions of privilege reveals that, on occasion, significant tension and disorder in the House can cause members to behave in ways they may later regret."

- NZ Herald

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