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No grounds for inquiry into ministerial housing

Hon Bill English
Minister of Finance


28 October 2009 Media Statement

No grounds for inquiry into ministerial housing

The Office of the Auditor-General has today confirmed there are no grounds for an inquiry into any aspects of Finance Minister Bill English’s housing arrangements.

It has also agreed that the rules and administrative processes for accommodation allowances need to be improved so they are clear and well explained.

The Auditor-General’s conclusions, after considering all the issues, are largely predictable, Mr English says.

“I welcome the Auditor-General’s confirmation that I correctly completed my declarations and provided other information as required to claim Wellington accommodation costs.

“Importantly, the Auditor-General concludes that the current parliamentary system is designed to establish whether an MP maintains a current residence outside Wellington, rather than where an MP lives in an everyday sense.

“This is consistent with rulings by successive Speakers of Parliament.”

Mr English says the Auditor-General’s decision puts an end to the issue –despite hollow and vindictive attempts by Labour to continue their smear campaign.

“I’m determined to continue focusing on the things that matter to this Government – helping Kiwis into jobs and managing the economic recovery.

“To that end, I took the personal decision last month to voluntarily repay all of the housing allowance I’ve received since the election. I’m now receiving no housing allowance – that’s my decision.”

Earlier this month, Mr English proactively referred all relevant material, including his family trust documents, to the Auditor-General.

After considering these documents, the Auditor-General notes that advice from the Registrar of Pecuniary Interests was that Mr English did not have a pecuniary interest under Parliament’s rules. But it says wider criteria should have been applied for ministerial accommodation.

“More broadly, it says this illustrates differences in the accommodation systems for MPs and ministers – and the lack of fit between them.

“I’m pleased that the Auditor-General has endorsed the Prime Minister’s changes to the ministerial accommodation system, which means that these issues won’t arise in future.

“I also appreciate the support that Parliament has provided me as a long-term MP with a family.

“If critics are arguing that ministers working long hours in Wellington should not be allowed to live with their families, then they should come out and say so. That’s not what I believe and it’s not what the Auditor-General says.”

ENDS

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