22 Oct 2015

Former MPs and spouses spend $700k on travel

6:16 pm on 22 October 2015

Figures just released have revealed former MPs and their partners spent just over $700,000 of taxpayer money on travel in the previous year.

Air New Zealand plane taking off from Wellington Airport.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

MPs elected before 1999 are still entitled to claim taxpayer funding for a limited amount of travel with their spouse or partner.

Former MPs spent $343,000 while their partners and spouses spent more with a total of $374,000, according to Parliamentary Service figures.

Biggest spenders in the year to 30 June included former Labour MP Harry Duynhoven and his wife Margaret who spent about $26,000.

Former Labour Minister Sir Roger Douglas spent $12,612 and his wife, Lady Glennis, spent $10,827.

Former National MP and Speaker of the House, Sir Lockwood Smith, who is now High Commissioner to London, and Lady Alexandra spent about $22,000.

Rosalind Burdon, wife of former National MP, Philip Burdon, was the highest spending spouse or partner in the past year, clocking up just under $12,913. Her husband spent $6126.

Judith Bassett, wife of former Labour MP Michael Bassett, spent $11,444. Mr Bassett spent $11,836.

United Future leader Peter Dunne, who was first elected in 1984, said he would probably take up the travel option once he retired.

He said he was happy for it to remain.

"Well, I have a vested interest in it but yes I am. It's been legislated for and it's in lieu of salary increases at the time. I think it's fair and reasonable," he said.

Current National MP and Minister Nick Smith, who will be eligible when he retires, said he had given it no thought whatsoever.

"The only thing I would say is that that was taken into account at the time when their remuneration was set and you are generally cautious... of changing people's retrospectively after they've retired when it was part of their conditions of contract when they were employed."

When National MP and minister, Gerry Brownlee, was asked if he would use the travel entitlements, his answer was short and to the point: " I don't know. I've got no plans to retire," he said.

Other MPs that will be eligible when they retire include Winston Peters, Annette King, Ruth Dyson, Trevor Mallard and Phil Goff.

Prime Minister John Key has always maintained there was a case to keep entitlements for former MPs.

"I can't really in good faith go along and say 'look, you worked for a whole lifetime and you got this entitlement and now I'm going to take it off you'.

"It would be like retrospectively changing say superannuation for people who have relied on getting it. I just think it's fundamentally not fair," he said.

Mr Key said those MPs had fewer benefits while they were in Parliament, on the understanding they would have this travel entitlement when they retired.

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