Zaharoff, Sir Basil

Zaharoff, Sir Basil

Zaharoff, Sir Basil (Basileios Zacharias), 1850-1936, international financier and munitions manufacturer, b. Anatolia, Turkey, probably of Greek-Russian parents, educated in England. His name is best known in connection with the Vickers-Armstrong munitions firm, of which he was director and chairman. For his services to the Allies during World War I, Zaharoff was knighted by George V and decorated by the French government. He was, however, popularly known as the "mystery man of Europe" and was accused of fomenting warfare and of secret political intrigue through his association with European statesmen, notably Lloyd George, and through his reputed holdings in Krupp, Skoda, and other munitions firms.
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.

Early life

Sir Basil was born in Timaru, New Zealand. His father, a hotel proprietor, inherited the title of 4th Baronet in 1941 and it passed to Basil upon his death in 1949. Sir Basil, who showed a preference for labouring jobs, made little of his title.

Member of Parliament

In 1962, he was elected to Parliament as the Labour MP for Timaru. On entering Parliament at 33 he was the country's youngest MP.

Cabinet minister

He was Minister of Transport and Minister in Charge of the State Insurance Office from 1972 till 1975.

When Labour won the 1984 election, Sir Basil became Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives.


He served as Speaker for one year, before passing away in office after a short illness. The then Prime Minister, David Lange recalled in My Life (2005) that Sir Basil 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". And Labour lost the subsequent Timaru by-election, with a candidate that did not suit "the conservative character of the electorate."

It is interesting to note that Sir Basil is the second baronet to serve as Speaker. The first being Sir Charles Clifford, 1st Baronet Clifford, of Flaxbourne (First Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives).

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