29 Sep 2009

English not off hook over housing allowances

8:55 pm on 29 September 2009

Political opponents of Finance Minister Bill English say his decision to forgo his Parliamentary housing allowance does not signal an end to the issue.

Mr English says he will not accept the allowance in the future, as questions about his eligibility have become too much of a distraction.

The minister has also repaid all the money he has received in housing assistance since last year's election totalling $32,000.

The Labour Party says it will await the outcome of a possible Audit Office inquiry before making a call about whether Mr English should repay allowances for that home from previous years.

It says there are still too many unanswered questions.

Mr English says those arrangements were all signed off by the Speaker of the House at the time.

Minister eligible in past for allowance

Radio New Zealand's parliamentary chief reporter says Mr English has been eligible in the past on the basis his primary residence is still in Dipton.

While that is no longer at issue as he is no longer claiming the allowance, he says that status has not changed.

The Office of the Auditor-General is yet to decide whether it will investigate Mr English. He had a preliminary meeting with Audit Office staff on Monday.

Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton referred the matter to the Auditor-General. He says the fact that Mr English is no longer receiving the allowance is irrelevant.

But Radio New Zealand's parliamentary chief reporter says the latest move will certainly make him a much smaller target for the Opposition.