29 Aug 2023

National MP Tim van de Molen censured by Parliament

4:14 pm on 29 August 2023
National MP Tim van de Molen

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

National MP Tim van de Molen has been formally censured over his threatening behaviour to a Labour MP.

Van de Molen was stood down from all his party spokesperson roles - including Defence, Veterans, Building and Construction, and ACC - after the Privileges Committee last week found him in contempt of Parliament.

National's leader Christopher Luxon also committed to not putting van de Molen in his first Cabinet if National won the election in October.

The committee's finding of contempt was over van de Molen's behaviour towards Labour's Shanan Halbert, who is also the chair of the Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee.

The Privileges Committee had brought in an independent barrister to investigate.

The report found van de Molen had challenged Halbert over the number of questions being allocated to his party during a committee session, and approached Halbert after the session - standing close to him. He then stood between Halbert and the exit, told him to "stand up mate", and would not move despite being repeatedly asked to.

The report said it was "objectively" threatening, and had Parliamentary staff worried enough that they considered calling for security. It found him in contempt and recommended he be censured.

Van de Molen apologised to Parliament over the incident.

The Privileges Committee is a group of high-profile MPs from all parties which considers and reports on questions of privilege relating to Parliament and MPs, such as breaches of Parliament rules. Privileges are powers and immunities which ensure Parliament is independent of the Crown and the courts.

It has recently been called on over several matters this year including Education Minister Jan Tinetti, former transport minister Michael Wood, ACT MP Simon Court, and on Wednesday a general question over breaching court suppression orders in the House.

Tinetti, Wood and Court were all found to have breached rules and asked to apologise. Van de Molen's case was the first finding of contempt this Parliamentary term.

Parliament debated the matter - along with the question of privilege over Wood - on Tuesday.

National MP Chris Bishop, a member of the Privileges Committee said this case was a "rung above" those relating to Wood and Court's actions.

"I would never want to see this debating chamber and indeed this Parliament become a sterile place of non-debate, but there is a line and ... Standing Orders are very clear that impeding another member in the course of their duties is a contempt of Parliament.

"We were also conscious of upholding Parliament as a good place to work, as well. Of being a place that staff and members of Parliament and all who work in this very important building feel safe at work at, and the question before the committee was: If this wasn't contempt of Parliament, then what is."

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