23 Sep 2008

Parliament censures Peters

9:16 pm on 23 September 2008

Parliament has debated and passed a motion on Tuesday to censure New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

New Zealand First and Labour voted against the censure motion, but it passed by 62 votes to 56 - only the fourth time an MP has been censured in the past 35 years.

Parliament's privileges committee on Monday night issued its report on the Owen Glenn donation to Mr Peters' legal costs, which found Mr Peters did have knowledge of the donation in December 2005 and should have declared it as a gift.

The committee found Mr Peters knowingly provided false or misleading information over pecuniary interests, and has recommended he be censured by Parliament.

Starting the debate, the chairman of the committee, National's Simon Power, moved that the House take note of the report.

National deputy leader Bill English told Parliament that Prime Minister Helen Clark's claim that the committee's process was tainted was an outrageous allegation and showed no respect for Parliament.

During the debate, Mr Peters accused the committee of political bias and prejudice. He later said it be up to the public to judge if he provided false or misleading information.

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen said there was nothing in the committee's report that should result in Mr Peters being sacked as a minister.

Dr Cullen, a member of the committee, says Mr Peters should not have been found guilty of contempt of Parliament.

He says that if Mr Peters had sought advice in 2006, he would have been told he did not have to declare the $100,000 donation from Mr Glenn.

Complaint dismissed

During the debate, Speaker of the House Margaret Wilson dismissed a complaint from New Zealand First MP Dail Jones that National MP Nick Smith misled Parliament.

Mr Jones laid the complaint with Ms Wilson last week about a statement Dr Smith made to Parliament in July.

Dr Smith told Parliament that the Registrar of Pecuniary Interests advised him he was required to declare only his Freedom of Speech Trust, not who donated to it.

But in a letter, the Registrar, Dame Margaret Bazley, says she does not remember giving that advice.

In Parliament on Tuesday afternoon, Dr Smith said he has received a letter from Ms Wilson, dismissing Mr Jones' complaint.

Afterwards, Parliament moved into urgency to pass a number of bills before the House rises for the election. They include several Treaty of Waitangi settlements, including the Central North Island collective and the Te Arawa Iwi and Hapu claim.

The Government also hopes to pass the Walking Access Bill and the Financial Advisors Bill.