5 October 2011

Parliament today has given the First Reading to the Members of Parliament (Remuneration and Services) Bill. If enacted, this will provide a process to distance Ministers and MPs from direct involvement in the setting of their allowances. It evolved from public disquiet about some travel allowance payments identified when the Speaker authorised the publication of MPs’ claims. The Bill reflects recommendations of the Law Commission. Interestingly this requires the establishment of yet another agency, the Independent Remumeration Authority ( or is the reference to the existing remuneration authority – a core body in New Zealand constitutional arrangements although it doesn’t fit within the definition of central government agencies as listed by State Services Commission.)

The Prime Minister commented that “It is important the public has confidence in the regime for setting MPs and Ministers’ entitlements. These changes, which put more power in the hands of independent decision makers, will increase that confidence.”

With Parliamentary business more or less concluding tomorrow, the Bill will depend on the House agreeing to restore it to the Order Paper when the new Parliament meets next year. Its Introduction however will enable Government parties to campaign on their commitment to open government, and an intention to reinforce improvements made over the last 18 months including a voluntary disclosure regime for allowances, and the curbing overseas travel entitlements.

An interesting comparison is criticism of controls in Ireland on politicians expenses claims. Public Enquiry, an anti corruption blog, continues to report incidents of elected officials abusing entitlements. Yesterday’s headline was “Politicians still abusing expenses”.