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Sir Basil Malcolm Arthur, 5th Baronet (18 September 1928 – 1 May 1985) served as Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives from 1984 to 1985. He was a member of the Labour Party.

Sir Basil Arthur

Sir Basil Arthur.jpg
20th Speaker of the House of Representatives
In office
Prime MinisterDavid Lange
Preceded byRichard Harrison
Succeeded byGerard Wall
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Timaru
In office
Preceded byClyde Carr
Succeeded byMaurice McTigue
Personal details
Born18 September 1928
Timaru, New Zealand
Died1 May 1985(1985-05-01) (aged 56)
NationalityNew Zealand
Political partyLabour

Early lifeEdit

Arthur was born in Timaru, New Zealand, and educated at Timaru Boys' High School.[1] His father, a hotel proprietor, inherited the title of 4th Baronet in 1941, and Arthur in turn inherited it on his father's death in 1949. However, he showed a preference for labouring jobs, and made little of his title.[2]

Member of ParliamentEdit

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1962–1963 33rd Timaru Labour
1963–1966 34th Timaru Labour
1966–1969 35th Timaru Labour
1969–1972 36th Timaru Labour
1972–1975 37th Timaru Labour
1975–1978 38th Timaru Labour
1978–1981 39th Timaru Labour
1981–1984 40th Timaru Labour
1984–1985 41st Timaru Labour

In 1960 Arthur stood for Labour in the Hamilton electorate, coming second.

In 1962, he contested two by-elections for the Labour Party: first, unsuccessfully, in Waitaki; then, successfully, in Timaru. On entering Parliament at age 33 he was the country's youngest member of parliament. He was reluctant to be called "Sir", but the Speaker at the time, Ronald Algie, said that refusing this honorific would be disrespectful to the Queen.[2]

Cabinet ministerEdit

Arthur was Minister of Transport and Minister in Charge of the State Insurance Office from 1972 until 1975.[3]


When Labour won the 1984 election, Arthur became Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives.[2] He served in that capacity for one year, before dying in office of Legionnaires' disease.[4] The then Prime Minister, David Lange recalled in My Life (2005) that Arthur was gravely ill in Wellington Hospital, and if he resigned from the member's superannuation scheme before he died (but not otherwise) his estate would get a lump-sum payment. He had to answer a question in the house, then went to hospital with a letter of resignation "only to find that he had died hardly a minute before I got there". Labour lost the subsequent Timaru by-election, with a candidate that did not suit "the conservative character of the electorate."[5]

Arthur was the second baronet to serve as Speaker, the first being Sir Charles Clifford, 1st Baronet (the first Speaker of the House of Representatives), although he was made a baronet some time after he had retired from politics.


In 1977, Arthur was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal.[1]

Coat of arms of Basil Arthur
In front of two swords in saltire Proper pommels and hilts Or a pelican in her piety Sable the nest Or.
Or on a chevron Azure between two clarions in chief Gules and a kangaroo sejant in base Proper two swords the points upwards also Proper points and hilts of the first on a chief of the third a horse courant Argent.
Stet Fortuna Domus (May The Fortune Of The House Stand) [6]


  1. ^ a b Taylor, Alister; Coddington, Deborah (1994). Honoured by the Queen – New Zealand. Auckland: New Zealand Who's Who Aotearoa. p. 50. ISBN 0-908578-34-2.
  2. ^ a b c Henderson, John. "Arthur, Basil Malcolm". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  3. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 92.
  4. ^ Michael Bassett, Working with David: Inside the Lange Cabinet, 2010, Hachette UK, ISBN 978-1-86971-241-9
  5. ^ David Lange (2005). My Life. Viking. ISBN 0-670-04556-X.
  6. ^ Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage & Titles of Courtesy. 1878.


  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand parliamentary record, 1840–1984 (4 ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.

External linksEdit