Speaker Lockwood Smith has put an end to subsidised travel for MPs – or at least those still in parliament.
But that still leaves the question of how to pay work related overseas travel costs for MPs:
Smith announced last night that he would ask the Parliamentary Service to come up with a replacement scheme to fund work-related travel.
“It’s important that MPs have some ability to travel overseas on legitimate party business.
“Not having access … would restrict the ability of members, especially Opposition members, from gaining important skills and knowledge overseas. The exposure is often valuable preparation for members who may eventually become ministers.”
Smith said the detail of the scheme would be decided later, but it would have to be for travel that was on parliamentary business only and be subject to an approval process with appropriate controls, transparency and accountability. It would also have to be simple to administer.
His instinct was that the new scheme would be run by the Parliamentary Service and that it would retain an element of personal contributions from MPs. “I’m not looking at a free scheme.”
Kiwiblog had a better idea:
Parliamentary Service should not be placed in a position where they have to judge whether a trip has enough “work” in it to qualify for a subsidised airfare.
The answer, as I have said before, is to fund international travel out of the leader’s budget. A party leader is far better positioned to decide whether a trip is worthwhile, and they will have an incentive not to say yes to the more dubious proposals, because the more they approve for travel, the less they have for other purposes (staff, policy, research, propaganda etc).
So it is vital that any money for travel not be ring-fenced. The moment you do that, you encourage people to come up with ways to use it all. It must be part of the “bulk” fund that goes to each parliamentary party.
He’s right, some people will always take everything they can and play the game to the limit of the rules.
It’s not fair to expect Parliamentary Services to make judgements on what fits the rules and what doesn’t. After the credit card fiascos I don’t have much confidence that they’d do it as it should be done anyway.
Far better to bulk fund it and let the leader decide who has a legitimate claim for public money and who should reach into their own pockets.