The speaker's official role is to moderate debate, make rulings on procedure, announce the results of votes, and the like. The speaker decides who may speak and has the powers to discipline members who break the procedures of the chamber or house. The speaker often also represents the body in person, as the voice of the body in ceremonial and some other situations. The title was first recorded in 1377 to describe the role of Thomas de Hungerford in the Parliament of England.
By convention, speakers are normally addressed in Parliament as 'Mister Speaker', if a man, or 'Madam Speaker', if a woman. In other cultures other styles are used, mainly being equivalents of English "chairman" or "president". Many bodies also have a speaker pro tempore (or deputy speaker), designated to fill in when the speaker is not available.
The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the English-speaking world and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (September 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
The Speaker of the House of Representatives is the presiding officer of the Australian House of Representatives, the lower house of the Parliament of Australia. The President of the Senate is the presiding officer of the Australian Senate, the upper house of the Parliament.
In Canada, the Speaker of the House of Commons is the individual elected to preside over the House of Commons, the elected lower house. The speaker is a Member of Parliament (MP) and is elected at the beginning of each new parliament by fellow MPs. The Speaker's role in presiding over Canada's House of Commons is similar to that of speakers elsewhere in other countries that use the Westminster system. The Speaker does not vote except in the case of a tie. By convention, if required to vote, the Speaker will vote in favour of continuing debate on a matter, but will not ultimately vote for a measure to be approved.
The Speaker of the Senate of Canada is the presiding officer of the Senate of Canada, the appointed upper house. The Speaker represents the Senate at official functions, rules on questions of parliamentary procedure and parliamentary privilege, and presides over debates and voting in the "Red Chamber". The Speaker of the Senate is appointed by the Governor General of Canada from amongst sitting senators upon the advice of the Prime Minister. The Speaker has a vote on all matters. In the event of a tie, the matter fails.
At the provincial level, the presiding officer of the provincial legislatures is called the "Speaker" in all provinces except Quebec, where the term "President" is used. The presiding officer fulfills the same role as the Speaker of the House of Commons.
Parliamentarism in Italy is centered on the Presidents of the two Houses, vested in defense of the members and of the assembly as a whole; so "the Speaker invites the representative of the Government not to deviate from the rules of parliamentary behavior". Now constitutional community highlights changes also in this role.
In Singapore, the Speaker of the Parliament of Singapore is the head officer of the country's legislature. By recent tradition, the Prime Minister nominates a person, who may or may not be an elected Member of Parliament (MP), for the role. The person's name is then proposed and seconded by the MPs, before being elected as Speaker. The Constitution states that Parliament has the freedom to decide how to elect its Speaker.
While the Speaker does not have to be an elected MP, they must possess the qualifications to stand for election as an MP as provided for in the Constitution. The Speaker also cannot be a Cabinet Minister or Parliamentary Secretary, and must resign from those positions prior to being elected as Speaker.
The Lord Speaker is the presiding officer of the House of Lords. The commonly used "Speaker of the House of Lords" is not correct. The presiding officer of the House of Lords was until recently the Lord Chancellor, who was also a member of the government (a cabinet member) and the head of the judicial branch. The Lord Chancellor did not have the same authority to discipline members of the Lords that the speaker of the Commons has in that house. The Lord Speaker is elected by the members of the House of Lords and is expected to be politically impartial.
Both chambers of the United States Congress have a presiding officer defined by the United States Constitution. The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives presides over the lower house of Congress, the House of Representatives, and is elected to that position by the entire House membership. Unlike in Commonwealth realms, the position is partisan, and the Speaker often plays an important part in running the House and advancing a political platform; Joseph Gurney Cannon, speaker from 1903 to 1911, is an extreme example.
The Vice President of the United States, as provided by the United States Constitution formally presides over the upper house, the Senate. In practice, however, the Vice President has a rare presence in Congress owing to responsibilities in the Executive branch and the fact that the Vice President may only vote to break a tie. In the Vice President's absence, the presiding role is delegated to the most Senior member of the majority party, who is the President pro tempore of the United States Senate. Since the Senate's rules give little power to its non-member presider (who may be of the opposite party), the task of presiding over daily business is typically rotated among junior members of the majority party.
In the forty-nine states that have a bicameral legislature, the highest leadership position in the lower house is usually called the "Speaker" and the upper house is usually the "President of the (State) Senate. In Nebraska--the only state with a unicameral legislature--the senators elect one senator to serve as "Speaker of the Nebraska Legislature". In Tennessee, the senators elect a "Speaker of the Senate" who presides over the Tennessee Senate and serves as lieutenant governor.
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The presiding officer for an upper house of a bicameral legislature usually has a different title, although substantially the same duties. When the upper house is called a senate, the equivalent title is often President of the Senate. Australia, Chile, the United States and many other countries have upper houses with presiding officers titled "president". In several American republics, the vice president of the country serves as the president of the upper house. This pattern is not universal, however. Some upper houses, including those of Canada, have a speaker.
The Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, and Presiding Officer of the Northern Ireland Assembly fulfill the same role as the speaker.