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No ‘backroom deal’ on election law

Bill English MP
National Party Deputy Leader

29 November 2007

No ‘backroom deal’ on election law

National Party Deputy Leader Bill English says National will not be part of any fresh attempt by Labour to do some kind of “backroom deal” in relation to the troubled Electoral Finance Bill.

“The Electoral Commission has today said that when it comes to enforcing the spending by MPs, the commission will depend on the ‘goodwill’ of all concerned and a ‘shared agreement’ between party secretaries.

“Such an agreement would have no binding legal force. If the proposed law is unclear and unenforceable, it needs to be amended. Political parties shouldn’t be making their own rules behind closed doors.

“National has fundamentally different views from Labour on this issue. For instance, we always believed that Helen Clark’s pledge card was electioneering - Labour did not.

“Labour has shown absolutely no ‘goodwill’ in drafting the Electoral Finance Bill and it has made no attempt to reach a ‘shared agreement’, even though political consensus is usually the convention when it comes to electoral reform.”

Mr English says the Electoral Commission’s chief executive said Justice Minister Annette King’s interpretation of the law surrounding MP spending clarified one of the commission’s concerns. Helena Catt then said some kind of backroom understanding would still be required.

“Labour has the numbers to force this fundamentally flawed bill into law. What are the chances they’ll miraculously be reasonable afterwards?”

Mr English says in his view, Annette King’s legal interpretation of the rules around MP spending are still vague and open to challenge.

“How is the public supposed to participate in democracy when even those enforcing the rules don’t know what they mean?”

For instance, according to Annette King, from January 1, MPs can't ‘make statements of policy outside the House that are intended to be enacted by a future Parliament’.

“How do you interpret that? The only message being sent by Labour is that people who want to take part in our democracy should consult a lawyer. This is all part of the Labour Party’s plan to shut down its critics in election year.”

ENDS

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