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Labour surprised by privilege decision

2000 web siteLabour members of Parliament's Privileges Committee are surprised at the revelation that Alamein Kopu was allowed to use her administrative budget to pay her legal bill defending herself before the Privileges Committee.

Labour Deputy Leader Michael Cullen said the committee was specifically asked to rule on the question of costs, and awarded no costs to either side.

"It appears the Parliamentary Services Commission, who would have had to approve this irregular use of administrative funds, has effectively sidelined the considered decision of the Privileges Committee, and favoured one side of the complaint," Dr Cullen said.

"It must be remembered that although the complaint was not upheld as a breach of privilege, it was established that Mrs Kopu promised in writing on three occasions prior to the last election that she would resign from Parliament if she did not uphold Alliance Party policy.

"The fact that her word meant nothing after the election did not mean that the action was not properly brought. It was the strict wording of the Standing Orders that a resignation from Parliament had to be given to the Speaker (something Mrs Kopu did not do) that prevented the Privileges Committee from finding against her.

"In fact, this case heightened public support for a Labour Party proposal to change the law to require MPs who leave their party after they get elected to also leave Parliament.

"It is not clear how much of the $36,000 bill was paid our of Mrs Kopu's administrative budget, and we will be seeking to ascertain that detail.

"We will also be seeking to establish the timing if the decision to allow Mrs Kopu to use her administrative fund in this way. If the decision coincides with the breakdown of the National-New Zealand First coalition and the efforts that were taken to bring Mrs Kopu on side with National, then serious questions will have to be asked as to the propriety of the decision.

"I will be writing to the Speaker tomorrow morning asking him who authorised the decision and on what basis this authorisation was given," Dr Cullen said.

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