Hair cuts trimmed from MPs' expenses

By Claire Trevett

New rules governing how ministers can spend taxpayers' money rule out hair cuts and gym memberships, but weekly house cleaning, a Sky subscription and firewood are allowed.

Prime Minister John Key has issued a new determination to govern ministers' entitlements to travel, accommodation and office costs to replace a 2003 edict from Helen Clark.

They include new "principles" for ministers, including looking for cheap options and ensuring spending is "able to withstand taxpayers' scrutiny".

Unlike previous determinations, it also spells out examples of what ministers can use taxpayers' money for at home and at the office. Ministers have more generous Wellington accommodation provisions, including the offer of a house, because of the extra time they spend in the capital.

Those with official residences have rates, electricity, gas, phone and internet bills and heating fuel paid. A TV, computer equipment and basic Sky subscription are included to allow them to keep up with the news.

Laundry for linen and towels is paid for but not clothing. Gym memberships, family meals, gifts for staff, personal alcohol, and wine for auctions must come from the ministers' pockets.

In the office, taxpayers' money can pay for official entertainment, farewell functions and Christmas parties if they cost less than $30 a head.

Ministers can buy a "self-drive" car but it must meet value and environmental standards.

- NZ Herald

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