web analytics

Curiouser and curiouser

Written By: - Date published: 12:21 pm, September 25th, 2009 - 4 comments
Categories: bill english - Tags:

english-houseIt’s not just Bill English that’s twisting in the wind over the rearrangement of his affairs to provide a pecuniary benefit to his family.

Here is a copy (PDF link) of the Parliamentary Services email tabled in the House by Pete Hodgson this week.

It shows that:

  • Parliamentary Services was requested to take a lease over the property described as the “English home.” Who made the request is not stated, but it is noted that Bill English supplied the information that it was owned by a family trust
  • Parliamentary Services sought confirmation from the “ninth floor” that a lease to a Minister’s family trust was appropriate, as Parliamentary Services would be paying into the trust for the lease
  • Parliamentary Services was advised by the “ninth floor” that such a lease was appropriate provided that several criteria were met, most importantly that the Minister had advised in writing that he had no pecuniary interest in the trust
  • Bill English had supplied this information, together with a legal opinion from the Office of the Clerk
  • The staff member in Parliamentary Services sought further approval from her manager that it was appropriate to issue the lease

References to the “ninth floor” in the Labour government either meant H1 or H2 – nobody else. We must assume in this case that the request was approved by either John Key or his chief of staff. John Key is the Minister responsible for Ministerial Services so it is most likely he who has approved the advice.

Here’s where Bill gets slippery in question time last week – he tries the old “no Ministerial responsibility” trick until the Speaker gives him a hint that that won’t work:

Hon Pete Hodgson: What is the precise pecuniary interest that must be met before it is permissible to lease a home from a family trust for use as a ministerial residence—is it a personal pecuniary interest test or a familial pecuniary interest test?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the Minister of Finance has said many times, he accepts that there was a perception problem with the arrangements. He kept to all the rules, but he paid the money back. What else can he do?

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was very precise. It had no extra material in it. It asked which of two tests should be used. That question was not addressed.

Mr SPEAKER: I would ask the Hon Bill English whether he could focus on the test that is applied, because the question was specifically about that.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister has no ministerial responsibility for that in his capacity as Prime Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: The dilemma I face is—I take it that the honourable Minister is still arguing that there is no ministerial responsibility for that issue.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I can answer the question.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is happy to answer the question? I thank the Minister.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is asking for a legal opinion. The Prime Minister has been advised that the Minister of Finance took legal advice—legal advice that was available to every member of Parliament about the declaration of pecuniary interests.

Last week Bill English said he took legal advice. This week Gerry Brownlee was designated to answer the question and the story had changed:

Hon PETE HODGSON (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister responsible for Ministerial Services: Who provided any legal advice to support his view that the Hon Bill English is ‘fully compliant with the rules that operate’?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister responsible for Ministerial Services: The Department of Internal Affairs’ chief legal advisor advised Ministerial Services that there were no legal impediments to the lease occurring. No legal advice was provided to the Minister.

Then Gerry got in deeper:

Hon PETE HODGSON (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister responsible for Ministerial Services: Was the legal advice from the Department of Internal Affairs that he spoke of yesterday informed by any legal advice from the Office of the Clerk of the House; if so, what was the date of the advice from the Office of the Clerk of the House?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Acting Minister for Ministerial Services): No.

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The member gets very excited about his own question when he should simply refer to the fact that the executive travel, accommodation, attendance, and communications services declaration 2003, brought down by the Rt Hon Helen Clark, was the provision in place at the time he is concerned about. It simply required that a pecuniary interest was denied. That was done.

Hon Pete Hodgson: How can the Minister substantiate that answer in light of an email dated 3 February between an official of Ministerial Services and the chief executive of Ministerial Services, which says: ‘I attach the relevant information, a declaration signed by the Hon Bill English together with a copy of his legal advice from the Office of the Clerk of the House.’, and the memo then concludes ‘Therefore, conditions have been met.’; how is it that the advice of the Office of the Clerk of the House was not part of the Government’s decision?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Earlier in the week I gave the House an explanation about the status of the email that Mr Hodgson refers to.

Hon Pete Hodgson: If the status of the email is that it says something other than what it meant to say, what did it mean to say?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I do not know what it meant to say. What I do know is that it is wrong. If the member would like to put down a written question, then Ministerial Services will provide a proper explanation of the circumstances—[Interruption]—the proper explanation for the email sent on 3 February by an employee who no longer works for Ministerial Services.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Who, then, did sight the Endeavour Trust deed to confirm that the pecuniary interest that was publicised in 2008 on the register is now declared to be no longer the case; who did sight the trust deed to ensure that the truth was being told here?

This is an “Alice in Wonderland” government – the words mean what Gerry, Bill and John say they mean.

Extraordinary! For very good advice from the media as to what should be declared, read Vernon Small here.

4 comments on “Curiouser and curiouser ”

  1. BLiP 1

    I quite agree with you. And the moral of that is: Be what you would seem to be, or if you’d like it put more simply: Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.

  2. Ianmac 2

    Would Bill Cheshire’s grin get a bit strained?

  3. ghostwhowalksnz 3

    Oh that learned Counsel on property, election and all other matters , The Clerk of the House.
    He was the one who gave a get out of jail card for John Key over the matter of his statuary declaration of place residence in his enrolment application form.

    Now he gives another convenient opinion outside his area of expertise

Links to post

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Environment Court Judge appointed
    Prudence Steven QC, barrister of Christchurch has been appointed as an Environment Judge and District Court Judge to serve in Christchurch, Attorney-General David Parker announced today. Ms Steven has been a barrister sole since 2008, practising in resource management and local government / public law.    She was appointed a Queen’s ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    10 hours ago
  • Government moves on climate promises
    The Government is delivering on its first tranche of election promises to take action on climate change with a raft of measures that will help meet New Zealand’s 2050 carbon neutral target, create new jobs and boost innovation. “This will be an ongoing area of action but we are moving ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    13 hours ago
  • Jump starting research careers
    The Government is investing up to $10 million to support 30 of the country’s top early-career researchers to develop their research skills. “The pandemic has had widespread impacts across the science system, including the research workforce. After completing their PhD, researchers often travel overseas to gain experience but in the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    14 hours ago
  • Project protects jobs and nature
    A Waitomo-based Jobs for Nature project will keep up to ten people employed in the village as the tourism sector recovers post Covid-19 Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says. “This $500,000 project will save ten local jobs by deploying workers from Discover Waitomo into nature-based jobs. They will be undertaking local ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Minister Shaw speaks with U.S. Presidential Envoy John Kerry
    Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw spoke yesterday with President Biden’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry. “I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak with Mr. Kerry this morning about the urgency with which our governments must confront the climate emergency. I am grateful to him and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs makes three diplomatic appointments
    Foreign Affairs Minister Hon Nanaia Mahuta today announced three diplomatic appointments: Alana Hudson as Ambassador to Poland John Riley as Consul-General to Hong Kong Stephen Wong as Consul-General to Shanghai   Poland “New Zealand’s relationship with Poland is built on enduring personal, economic and historical connections. Poland is also an important ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Major redevelopment of Wainuiomata High School underway
    Work begins today at Wainuiomata High School to ensure buildings and teaching spaces are fit for purpose, Education Minister Chris Hipkins says. The Minister joined principal Janette Melrose and board chair Lynda Koia to kick off demolition for the project, which is worth close to $40 million, as the site ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • New expert group appointed to advise Government on Oranga Tamariki
    A skilled and experienced group of people have been named as the newly established Oranga Tamariki Ministerial Advisory Board by Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis today. The Board will provide independent advice and assurance to the Minister for Children across three key areas of Oranga Tamariki: relationships with families, whānau, and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • COVID-19 vaccine slated for possible approval next week
    The green light for New Zealand’s first COVID-19 vaccine could be granted in just over a week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today. “We’re making swift progress towards vaccinating New Zealanders against the virus, but we’re also absolutely committed to ensuring the vaccines are safe and effective,” Jacinda Ardern said. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • New ACC Board members announced.
    The Minister for ACC is pleased to announce the appointment of three new members to join the Board of ACC on 1 February 2021. “All three bring diverse skills and experience to provide strong governance oversight to lead the direction of ACC” said Hon Carmel Sepuloni. Bella Takiari-Brame from Hamilton ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Economic boost for Southland marae
    The Government is investing $9 million to upgrade a significant community facility in Invercargill, creating economic stimulus and jobs, Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson and Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene have announced.  The grant for Waihōpai Rūnaka Inc to make improvements to Murihiku Marae comes from the $3 billion set ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Celebrating the Entry Into Force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
    [Opening comments, welcome and thank you to Auckland University etc] It is a great pleasure to be here this afternoon to celebrate such an historic occasion - the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This is a moment many feared would never come, but ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Supporting disabled people to stay connected
    The Government is providing $3 million in one-off seed funding to help disabled people around New Zealand stay connected and access support in their communities, Minister for Disability Issues, Carmel Sepuloni announced today. The funding will allow disability service providers to develop digital and community-based solutions over the next two ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Voluntary saliva testing offered to quarantine workers from Monday
    Border workers in quarantine facilities will be offered voluntary daily COVID-19 saliva tests in addition to their regular weekly testing, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. This additional option will be rolled out at the Jet Park Quarantine facility in Auckland starting on Monday 25 January, and then to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Next steps in firearms buy-back
    The next steps in the Government’s ambitious firearms reform programme to include a three-month buy-back have been announced by Police Minister Poto Williams today.  “The last buy-back and amnesty was unprecedented for New Zealand and was successful in collecting 60,297 firearms, modifying a further 5,630 firearms, and collecting 299,837 prohibited ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Jobs for Nature projects target iconic ecosystems
    Upscaling work already underway to restore two iconic ecosystems will deliver jobs and a lasting legacy, Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says.  “The Jobs for Nature programme provides $1.25 billion over four years to offer employment opportunities for people whose livelihoods have been impacted by the COVID-19 recession. “Two new projects ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • New Public Housing Plan announced
    The Government has released its Public Housing Plan 2021-2024 which outlines the intention of where 8,000 additional public and transitional housing places announced in Budget 2020, will go. “The Government is committed to continuing its public house build programme at pace and scale. The extra 8,000 homes – 6000 public ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Prime Minister congratulates President Joe Biden on his inauguration
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has congratulated President Joe Biden on his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States of America. “I look forward to building a close relationship with President Biden and working with him on issues that matter to both our countries,” Jacinda Ardern said. “New Zealand ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Jobs for Nature funding will create training and employment opportunities
    A major investment to tackle wilding pines in Mt Richmond will create jobs and help protect the area’s unique ecosystems, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says. The Mt Richmond Forest Park has unique ecosystems developed on mineral-rich geology, including taonga plant species found nowhere else in the country. “These special plant ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Pre-departure testing extended to all passengers to New Zealand
    To further protect New Zealand from COVID-19, the Government is extending pre-departure testing to all passengers to New Zealand except from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “The change will come into force for all flights arriving in New Zealand after 11:59pm (NZT) on Monday ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Bay Cadets learn skills to protect environment
    Bay Conservation Cadets launched with first intake Supported with $3.5 million grant Part of $1.245b Jobs for Nature programme to accelerate recover from Covid Cadets will learn skills to protect and enhance environment Environment Minister David Parker today welcomed the first intake of cadets at the launch of the Bay ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Cook Islanders to resume travel to New Zealand
    The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown have announced passengers from the Cook Islands can resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand from 21 January, enabling access to essential services such as health. “Following confirmation of the Cook Islands’ COVID ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Supporting communities and landowners to grow employment opportunities
    Jobs for Nature funding is being made available to conservation groups and landowners to employ staff and contractors in a move aimed at boosting local biodiversity-focused projects, Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan has announced. It is estimated some 400-plus jobs will be created with employment opportunities in ecology, restoration, trapping, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Border exception for some returning international tertiary students
    The Government has approved an exception class for 1000 international tertiary students, degree level and above, who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began. The exception will allow students to return to New Zealand in stages from April 2021. “Our top priority continues ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Tiwai deal gives time for managed transition
    Today’s deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland. “The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New member for APEC Business Advisory Council
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appointed Anna Curzon to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). The leader of each APEC economy appoints three private sector representatives to ABAC. ABAC provides advice to leaders annually on business priorities. “ABAC helps ensure that APEC’s work programme is informed by business community perspectives ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Govt’s careful economic management recognised
    The Government’s prudent fiscal management and strong policy programme in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic have been acknowledged by the credit rating agency Fitch. Fitch has today affirmed New Zealand’s local currency rating at AA+ with a stable outlook and foreign currency rating at AA with a positive ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Additional actions to keep COVID-19 out of NZ
    The Government is putting in place a suite of additional actions to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, including new emerging variants, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • 19 projects will clean up and protect waterways
    $36 million of Government funding alongside councils and others for 19 projects Investment will clean up and protect waterways and create local jobs Boots on the ground expected in Q2 of 2021 Funding part of the Jobs for Nature policy package A package of 19 projects will help clean up ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago