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Speaker changes rule around MP's expenses

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Lockwood Smith
Lockwood Smith

Wellington, May 10 NZPA - Speaker Lockwood Smith has changed a rule to allow MPs to take young children on trips at taxpayer expense.

Auditor-General Lyn Provost's report into Cabinet Minister Phil Heatley's spending, released in March, highlighted a problem in that the Parliamentary Service had been telling MPs they could use taxpayer funding to pay for their pre-school children's travel since 2007. However that is not what the rules, called Speaker's Directions, said.

There were about 16 current MPs who may have been led astray by the wrong advice.

One area where Mr Heatley misspent taxpayer funded entitlements was by using them to take one of his children, aged under five, on travel that was not directly between their home in Whangarei and Wellington.

The report said the service had been providing incorrect advice since 2007 to MPs that their children aged under five had unlimited travel between any locations in New Zealand.

"Mr Heatley is not the only member affected by this incorrect advice from the Parliamentary Service," the report said.

The Auditor-General pointed out Speaker's Directions did not match the rule and they were the legal basis for the spending.

At the time Dr Smith said the practice was not consistent with the handbook and he today said he had amended the Speaker's Directions to reflect the practice of reimbursing travel expenses for children younger than five.

There has been no announcement yet on possible changes to the rules for older children.

In March Dr Smith said he was not looking at making the allowance more generous, but possibly more flexible.

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