The Power(Lessness) of New Zealand’s House of Representatives to Summons the Crown’s Legal Advice
8 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2020
Date Written: June 5, 2020
The extent of the New Zealand’s House of Representatives’ (“the House’s”) general power to summons persons and documents recently came into question. A parliamentary committee, established to scrutinise the government’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic, required that various officials provide it with the Crown’s legal advice regarding the very extensive restrictions placed upon New Zealand society. When the Attorney-General objected on the basis that the documents sought were protected by legal professional privilege, the Speaker of the House determined that the House has no power to demand their production. Although this decision was based on precedent, it differs from the position in the United Kingdom’s House of Commons (“the Commons”) from whence the House derives its privileges. It also is questionable whether it is a desirable outcome in terms of New Zealand’s constitution.
Keywords: parliamentary privilege, summonsing power, legal professional privilege
JEL Classification: K19
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation