Centuries of parliamentary tradition lie behind the
stately black robes and modern duties of the Legislative Assembly officers.
The Clerk's position dates back to 14th century
Britain. At that time and for centuries thereafter, most Members of
Parliament could neither read nor write, so the Clerk gave Bills "first
reading" by reading them aloud. This could be very time-consuming:
the longest Bill in England's history, the Electric Lighting Bill of 1883, was
400 printed pages!
Modern Clerks advise the Speaker on parliamentary
procedure and call the daily order of business during sittings. With the
help of a variety of staff, they also maintain Assembly records, produce the
daily agenda, and assist numerous Assembly committees.
Parliamentary Counsel are the Assembly's legal
experts. In the Chamber they advise the Speaker on legal and procedural
matters. Outside it they give similar advice to MLAs and Legislative
Assembly staff, and they help MLAs draft new laws. They are relatively
modern in origin; the first parliamentary lawyer was appointed in the British
House of Commons in 1838 to help the Speaker deal with legal questions.
Like the Clerk, the Sergeant-at-Arms has been a
parliamentary fixture since the 14th century, when he was the Speaker's
bodyguard. Today, the Sergeant-at-Arms looks after MLAs' security at the
Legislature and in the constituencies. The Sergeant-at-Arms also carries
the Mace into the Chamber each sitting day, where it remains throughout the
sitting as a symbol of the Assembly's authority.