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Confidence in Parl't not restored by Field ruling

26 July 2006

Public confidence in Parliament not restored by Field ruling

While the Green Party accepts that the Speaker is responsible for deciding what constitutes a breach of privilege, the lack of sanction for Mr Field's behaviour will only fuel the public's scepticism about Parliament's reluctance to police its standards, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

"The Ingram enquiry has established that Mr Field did not mis-use his position as a Minister. The problem is that a legalistic approach cannot address the widely held concerns about Mr Field's behaviour. On the evidence, Mr Field lobbied the Immigration Minister on behalf of his constituents, without paying them properly for the services they rendered to him in return.

"Such behaviour falls short of the standards expected of MPs both in their dealings with the people they represent, and in their working relationships with Ministers. The business of this House begins every day with a prayer that members should "set aside all personal and private interests" and clearly, Mr Field has not always followed that rule in the way he has conducted his political affairs.

"No doubt, the Speaker is correct in citing the legal distinction that exist between the narrow business of the House and the behavioural standards of MPs in their work outside the House. Yet public confidence in the behaviour of MPs is essential both to the workings of the House, and to public respect for the laws that it passes.

" Public perceptions that privilege has been abused do matter, just as much as whether that abuse has been proven in a narrow legalistic sense, to the standard required in a court of law," Ms Fitzsimons says.

"In future, as the Speaker indicates, it is up to Parliament to devise and pass a code of conduct for its members, in line with those already in place in similar Parliaments overseas. However, such a development cannot apply retro-actively and address the case of Mr Field. All it does is identify a legal loophole that evidently allows Mr Field, for now at least, to escape any Parliamentary sanction for his actions.

"Given the lack of any other meaningful way of addressing the damage to perceptions of Parliament's integrity, the Green Party would support any motion for select committee scrutiny of the various issues raised within the Ingram report.


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