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Prebble Calls On Speaker To Act At Once

Prebble Calls On Speaker To Act At Once

ACT New Zealand Leader Richard Prebble today called on Speaker Jonathan Hunt to immediately suspend Minister Harry Duynhoven from Parliament, as the Speaker has a statutory duty to declare vacant a seat where the MP concerned has made an act of allegiance to a foreign state.

"The Solicitor-General's, and the Clerk of the House's, advice to the Privileges Committee was that the seat had been legally vacant since June 11. The Speaker has a statutory duty to act as soon as he is aware of the fact. In my view, he would have been legally correct in declaring the seat vacant on Tuesday last week, and had no obligation to refer the matter to the Privileges Committee," Mr Prebble said.

"Mr Hunt cannot justifiably wait a minute longer. He certainly should not delay, giving the Government time to introduce retrospective legislation. He should stand in Parliament, at 2pm today, to announce that he has declared the seat vacant and gazetted the order for a by-election - which is his statutory duty.

"It is significant that every party represented on the Privileges Committee - except Labour - accepted the strong advice of the Solicitor-General, who said the Electoral Act provisions are clear and unambiguous, and that Mr Duynhoven's seat has been vacant since June 10 2003.

"It is extraordinary that Attorney-General Margaret Wilson, Leader of the House Michael Cullen, and Lianne Dalziel - who's supposed to be in charge of deciding who comes to New Zealand - reject the Government's own legal advice, and try to argue that there is some confusion over Mr Duynhoven's eligibility.

"The Solicitor-General's advice was also emphatic that there should be a by-election - and that it is for New Plymouth electors, not Parliament, to decide whether Mr Duynhoven should be re-elected.

"The Labour Government's decision to introduce a retrospective change to the Electoral Act is putting Mr Duynhoven above the law. I'm concerned that the provision is so wide it would enable any Member of Parliament in this term to pledge allegiance to a foreign Government.

"Now suspicion has been aroused that the parties supporting this change are actually covering up for another MP - one whose seat might also be vacant, but has not come forward and admitted their invalidity. Indeed, the proposal cast a slur on every other MP," Mr Prebble said.

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