9 Mar 2013

Elder to be asked to appear before committee

6:07 am on 9 March 2013

Parliament's commerce committee is inviting the former chief executive of Solid Energy to appear next week to answer questions about the company's financial demise.

Don Elder did not appear before the committee on Thursday, despite being on full pay in a two-month advisory role for the state-owned coal company until April.

He resigned from the company in February after 12 years at the helm.

The Labour Party says Dr Elder should be made to explain the company's $389 million debt and is calling for an inquiry.

MP Clayton Cosgrove has been urging National Party committee members to support moves to bring Don Elder to answer questions at Parliament.

On Friday, Commerce select committee chair Jonathan Young said he would write a letter to Dr Elder asking him to come to the committee's meeting next Thursday, and expects the invitation will be accepted. "I'm sure he has some things to say and I would expect that if he is able to, that he'd come."

Mr Young said at this stage, he is not sure that he would support an inquiry. He said the committee has requested further information from Solid Energy and this needs to be considered first.

The committee will decide next week whether to hold a full inquiry.

The Government on Friday said it would be up to the members of the select committee and Solid Energy whether Dr Elder shows at Parliament.

Prime Minister John Key said he would be "totally relaxed" about Dr Elder appearing at the select committee, but had not been aware that the former chief executive was being retained on full pay.

In a statement on Friday, State Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall said it is a matter for the select committee, Solid Energy and Dr Elder whether he attends.

Mr Ryall said he does not have a problem either way. Nor did Finance Minister Bill English, but the minister said he was not going to force the issue.

Clayton Cosgrove said he believed Mr Ryall is effectively giving his approval to an inquiry into the financial troubles at the company.

Green Party MP Gareth Hughes believed that Don Elder should have turned up to the committee meeting this week.