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Speaker Defends MP Expenses

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Lockwood Smith
Lockwood Smith

Wellington, Aug 9 NZPA - Speaker Lockwood Smith today defended MPs' allowances, saying new MPs got the same pay as those, like himself, with many years of experience.

MPs' travel and accommodation costs for the first six months of this year were made public on June 30 following outrage in Britain over politicians' extravagant spending.

Since then, Finance Minister Bill English has come under fire for getting an allowance for the home he lives in with his family in Wellington, despite having lived in the capital for more than a decade.

Other MPs' spending, such as Labour's Chris Carter's on travel, has also come under fire.

Dr Smith told TV One's Q and A programme that perks such as private international travel recognised service.

He used his own situation as an example, saying he had been in Parliament 24 years but was on exactly the same salary "as the newest list member walking in six weeks before the election".

"... the one privilege members get after years of service is that travel subsidy, and I think actually they deserve it."

Dr Smith defended subsidised travel for spouses, saying he had had little time with his wife who he married this year.

MPs get pay rises most years. Dr Smith said increasing pay considerably to compare with company bosses may partly solve the concerns about allowances but they would still be needed to address different demands individual MPs faced.

Mr English had a home in Wellington and in Dipton because he was the Clutha Southland electorate MP.

The interview between Dr Smith and presenter Paul Holmes became quite heated, with the Speaker frequently suggesting the veteran broadcaster stand for Parliament to see how hard it was. He also said Holmes probably earned more than MPs did.

Dr Smith also revealed the Speaker's flat at Parliament was "awful" and he stayed at another flat.

He entertained using the flat, which had a large dining room, "but if you actually look at the bedroom and bathroom and kitchen, I don't think you'd want to live in it... it's awful".

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