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Attorney-General makes pecuniary interest breach

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Chris Finlayson
Chris Finlayson

Wellington, June 23 NZPA - A repeated breach of parliamentary rules by Attorney-General Chris Finlayson in not declaring a pecuniary interest raises serious concerns, says Labour MP Trevor Mallard.

Mr Mallard said on his party's Red Alert website that Mr Finlayson had failed to declare his interest as a shareholder and director of a company.

Mr Finlayson said he hadn't declared it on the annual Register of Pecuniary Interest because he had no interest in the company, which was a corporate trustee incorporation for a friend's trust.

He said since 2006 he had been a director and shareholder of Te Puhi Trust (2) Ltd with two other people. The incorporation owned no assets and only existed to be a trustee for a family trust which benefited a family and charitable causes, he said.

Mr Finlayson said he sought advice from the trust's lawyer, who told him he had no personal or pecuniary interest in the company.

However, he referred the matter to Registrar of Pecuniary Interests Dame Margaret Bazley, who pointed out today that Parliament's Standing Orders stated that all company directorships needed to be declared and there were no exemptions.

She said there was an "if in doubt declare it" line often passed on to MPs by the Privileges Committee, and she encouraged members to follow that advice.

Mr Mallard said the same oversight had been made four years in a row.

"It's not for Margaret Bazley to say the seriousness of that...but the question now goes to (Prime Minister John Key) as to whether he thinks it's satisfactory to have someone who has now apparently admitted making four years of false declarations as attorney-general".

Mr Key said before the omission was identified as a breach that Mr Finlayson had taken legal advice on the issue and was relaxed about his handling of the situation.

He was not immediately available for comment this evening.

Mr Mallard said it was concerning that such an oversight could be made by Parliament's top law officer.

"The other basic point is that he didn't just do it once, he did it four times," he told NZPA. "What it shows is that he can't have read what he was signing."

Dame Margaret recommended Mr Finlayson make an amendment to his declaration for the Register of Pecuniary Interest.

"I will do this at the earliest opportunity and will also amend, where necessary, declarations from previous years," Mr Finlayson said. He said he had never received payment for his role with the company.

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