28 Jun 2018

Phil Twyford told off by Speaker for 'unacceptable' abuse of process

5:24 pm on 28 June 2018

The Housing Minister Phil Twyford has been told off for abusing the process of Parliament in several of his answers to written questions.

Judith Collins and Phil Twyford.

Judith Collins and Phil Twyford. Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

At the beginning of Question Time today, the Speaker Trevor Mallard called Mr Twyford's answers an "abuse" of process and said he had shown "a contempt for the accountability a Minister has to Parliament."

Mr Twyford had answered a number of written questions lodged by National MP Judith Collins improperly.

In response to one question about whether KiwiBuild homeowners would be allowed to rent out rooms for profit in their KiwiBuild home, Mr Twyford said she would have to wait.

"The member will have to wait until announcements are made, but if the member is volunteering to peek in the windows of her constituents, I will take that under advisement."

More Twyford vs Collins:

  • Twyford, Collins hammer it out over housing
  • Another response came following an oral question, in which Mr Twyford said "there's only a few more sleeps before we can give the answer".

    Ms Collins asked how many more sleeps were required before a decision was made regarding KiwiBuild eligibility rules and income testing.

    Mr Twyford wrote in response: "It depends on how frequently the member sleeps".

    Mr Mallard has awarded the opposition 20 extra questions to use at Question Time as a result, which they will use to hold government ministers to account to a greater extent next week.

    He also wrote to Mr Twyford to tell him his abuse of parliamentary process was unacceptable, and said he expected proper answers to the National Party's questions by mid next week.

    Mr Mallard said he expected better from government ministers. Ms Collins said she was delighted the Speaker had taken the matter seriously.

    "[Mr Twyford is] spending a lot of time that he should be spending actually doing his work, trying to make flippant comments on answers, rather than just getting on and doing the job.

    "If he doesn't want to answer the questions, then he shouldn't want to be a minister."

    Leader of the House Chris Hipkins will be having a conversation with Mr Twyford about his responses to Ms Collins' questions.

    "There's always a bit of cut and thrust in the Parliamentary debating chamber which is to be expected, but I do expect that when ministers are answering written questions that they should generally play with a straight bat," Mr Hipkins said.

    "I've now had a chance to look at them and I don't think the tone of them or the content of them as a group was particularly appropriate."