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Register Of MPs’ Interests To Be Introduced

2 May 2002

The government today announced the introduction of a register of interests for MPs which will require all MPs to publicly list their pecuniary interests.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said that currently only government ministers are required to register their interests, and that extending the register to all MPs will bring greater openness, transparency and accountability to the political process.

“Placing interests on the public record will assist in preventing and detecting potential or actual conflicts of interest between MPs’ public duties and private interests. At a time when MPs are viewed with some scepticism by many of the public, it will strengthen public trust and confidence in the integrity of Parliament.

“It is anomalous that a register exists for ministers but not MPs, as the potential for conflicts of interest exists for all MPs, whether they be government ministers, senior backbenchers, or the most junior opposition MP.

“The introduction of a registers of MPs’ interests will also bring New Zealand in line with best international practice. Registers are common overseas in, for example, countries like the United Kingdom, Australia and Ireland,” Helen Clark said.

Leader of the House Michael Cullen said that a New Zealand MPs’ register has been periodically raised.

“The Standing Orders Committee considered, but did not pursue, the issue in 1985. In 1990, following the adoption of the scheme for ministers, Cabinet agreed that a bill extending it to MPs be drafted and introduced. The incoming government, however, did not pursue it.

“The register would be based on the current ministers’ register, and also draw on overseas schemes from similar jurisdictions. Its purpose would be to highlight possible conflicts of interest, not to be a ‘register of wealth’. As such, it is not proposed that the monetary value of any interest should be listed.

“MPs will be required to complete returns of listed interests following election and annually thereafter. All returns would be compiled, presented to Parliament, and published. Non-compliance would be dealt with primarily by way of publicity and political pressure. It would be subject to audit by the Auditor-General and, if required, to contempt proceedings in Parliament.”

Dr Cullen said that the government would put a proposal to Parliament’s Standing Orders Committee for the register to be introduced by an amendment to Standing Orders [Parliament’s rule book] so that it came into effect immediately following the 2002 election.

If agreement with other parties in Parliament could not be found to amend Standing Orders, the government would pass legislation to bring in the register, he said.

Ends

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