PM on MPs international travel entitlements
Rt Hon John Key
15 November 2010 Speech Notes
Prime Minister’s comments on MPs’ international travel entitlement
Post-Cabinet Press Conference, 4pm
The most recent situation relating to Pansy Wong has again raised in the public’s mind questions about the international travel rebate available to Members of Parliament and their spouses, and ex-MPs and their spouses.
Since I have become Prime Minister more information has progressively been made available to the public about both Parliamentary and Ministerial expenses, including MPs’ accommodation and travel costs, and Ministerial credit card use. I believe this greater transparency has been positive.
As the Speaker has pointed out, the overall cost to the taxpayer for overseas trips taken under the international travel rebate is deducted from the overall pool of money set aside for MPs’ remuneration.
However, it is clear that there is no public confidence in this system and it undermines public confidence in the institution of Parliament, and that is not a good thing for our democracy.
The strong view of National Party MPs is that this entitlement has now outlived its usefulness, and should be abolished as soon as possible. To that end, I have today advised the Speaker of the House that National’s strong view is that the entitlement should end.
I have asked the Speaker to refer this matter to the Remuneration Authority, which is independent of all MPs and political parties. It should be for the Remuneration Authority to determine how best to abolish the entitlement and to determine what changes, if any, should be made to MPs’ salaries, but it would be my expectation that if any change to MPs’ salaries was to be countenanced, it should be very modest.
In a practical sense, what I would like to see happen is for the travel entitlement for all existing MPs and their spouses to be abolished as soon as possible. You will be aware that because of changes made before the 1999 election, MPs elected at the 1999 election or afterwards no longer enjoy an international travel discount when they leave Parliament.
That said, there are MPs who are either currently in Parliament and were elected prior to 1999, or a host of ex-MPs who do get the grand-fathered travel discount. It would be our recommendation that because it is not practical to retrospectively re-negotiate employment conditions of this group of current and former MPs that there entitlement should remain. Looking at the National Party Caucus, we would expect around a dozen of the 58 MPs would fall into this category.
What I’ve outlined for you is the National Party’s position. I will now leave it for other leaders to reflect on their positions.
On the wider issue of whether MPs remuneration and expenses should be totally determined by an independent body, it is my view that this is a matter that is worthy of consideration. As such, the Law Commission is reporting on these matters shortly and that will provide the opportunity for further debate and consideration of this matter.
What I am signalling today is that I am open to debating the merits of this suggestion.