It’s fanciful to believe such delegations have any real benefit for NZ , says party leader.

A taxpayer-funded tour of Europe for MPs is a junket and will not deliver any real benefit to New Zealand, the Act Party says.

Five MPs - four of them with their partners - are on a $138,000 tour of Europe, led by Speaker David Carter.

National, Labour, the Greens and NZ First are represented.

Act leader David Seymour said he raised the issue of such travel soon after entering Parliament, and "I've never seen politicians who are normally so opposed to each other close ranks so rapidly".

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"I was basically told that I was having sour grapes because as a very small party I would be unlikely to qualify for one of these junkets.

"These guys are paid three times the average salary. Air travel has never been cheaper and, frankly, if the rest of the world is a mystery to these guys, maybe they shouldn't be in Parliament."

This year's delegation will visit France, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Poland and Germany over 14 days.

Mr Carter has said the visit is an opportunity to meet political leaders and strengthen some of New Zealand's "oldest and most significant contemporary relationships with European countries".

Accompanying him will be National's Deputy Speaker, Chester Borrows, first-term Labour MP Adrian Rurawhe, Green Party foreign affairs spokesman Kennedy Graham, first-term NZ First MP Fletcher Tabuteau and two parliamentary staff.

Mr Seymour said it was fanciful to suggest such delegations would have any real benefit for NZ.

"The idea that sending a dozen MPs is critical to improving our foreign relations, when a quarter of our economy is trade, does seem a bit on the far edge of things."

Steve Cutting, manager of the Parliamentary Relations section of the Office of the Clerk of the House, previously told the Herald that costs for partners, including flights, were covered by the taxpayer. However, yesterday more detail was provided.

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MPs can use the value of one business-class return airfare to enable their partners to accompany them - they can downgrade their airfares and use the savings to help pay for their companion. Any additional cost associated with members' partners accompanying them must be met by the MPs themselves, said Mary Harris, Clerk of the House of Representatives.

Costs for Mr Carter's spouse - including a return business-class airfare - are covered by the Office of the Clerk, "because of their ceremonial and representational role".

According to a Speaker's determination, members can be entitled to expenses including travel insurance, any required vaccinations and immunisations, and passport photos.

Asked yesterday whether MPs should fly economy class, Prime Minister John Key said that when his ministers got off a plane, they were expected to go to work straight away.

"I expect people to spend the minimum amount of time they realistically can in a foreign location, and to be working hard when they're there.

"It's easy to value an economy ticket at a lower rate, but if your MP or minister is so exhausted they are not concentrating on what they're doing, then they are actually not providing value for the country."

Mr Key said he had stopped the policy under Helen Clark of the Prime Minister flying first class.

Speaker's tours

Jonathan Hunt

2001: Brazil, Chile, Argentina, US.

2002: Spain, France, England, Scotland.

2003: China, Japan, Hong Kong.

2004: Russia, Estonia, Latvia, France.

Margaret Wilson
2005: Canada, US, Mexico.
2006: Brussels, Turkey.
2007: Germany, the Netherlands, Norway.
2008: Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary.

Lockwood Smith
2009: Vietnam, Japan.
2010: Spain, Israel, Turkey.
2011: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile.
2012: UK, Croatia Belgium.

David Carter
2013: Thailand, Burma, Japan.
2015: France, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Poland, Germany.
(There was no Speaker's tour in 2014)