The Government will move to adjourn Parliament for five weeks and will not sit again until April 28, regardless of New Zealand's Covid-19 alert status, Speaker Trevor Mallard says.
Tomorrow there will be a special sitting of the House – with a scaled-back number of MPs – to vote on the adjournment motion, which is expected to pass.
Mallard also announced that a new special committee, chaired by National leader Simon Bridges, has been set up and will have the power to interview those involved with the Government's Covid-19 response.
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The new committee, which will sit for four to five weeks, was agreed to by Parliament's business committee – a group of MPs from both sides of the House making decisions on many aspects of the proceedings of Parliament and its committees.
The new committee acts as a way for the Opposition to continue to hold the Government to account while Parliament is not sitting.
The Opposition would be able to "effectively interrogate" ministers or public servants on their actions around the pandemic, Mallard said.
That committee will have special powers to summon people to present to the committee and answer questions about Covid-19, as well as the power to request papers and reports relating to the response.
But Act leader David Seymour is not happy with the developments.
"New Zealanders have just faced the greatest peace-time loss of civil liberties in our history, and it is possible we may not have an election this year."
The new committee will be meeting remotely so its members won't all be in the same room.
Those meetings will be publicly broadcast, Mallard said.
"The witnesses will be interviewed remotely, but all of that will be available to the public."
He said there will be 11 MPs on the special committee, including five National MPs, an Act MP, three Labour MPs, one NZ First MP and one Green MP.
Although Seymour is on the committee he has called the decision to adjourn Parliament "misguided," adding that it was a "partial suspension of democracy".
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is poised to issue an epidemic notice and invoke the Epidemic Preparedness Act – legislation that gives the Government the ability to change almost any law at the stroke of a pen, Seymour said.
"The Government should deem democracy an essential service. If we need couriers, banks, and breakfast radio shows, then we also need democracy."
Mallard said Parliament will resume on April 28, even if the lockdown was extended from the current four weeks into the end of April.
He said there was no point having legislation back in Parliament because the legislative programme had been suspended.
"If Parliament is not sitting, legislation will not be progressed."