Travel perks for former MPs will now be protected in law under legislation debated by Parliament yesterday but the amount spent by each individual former MP will be revealed annually.

The Members of Parliament (Remuneration and Services) Bill costs taxpayers about $1.3 million a year.

Former MPs elected before 1999 and their spouses and widows and widowers are entitled to rebates on domestic and international airfares.

Attorney General Chris Finlayson said putting the perks in legislation had been recommended by the Law Commission to ensure they could not be extended or increased except by legislative amendment.


Shadow Leader of the House Trevor Mallard said: "While there might be a few of our older colleagues that are spinning in their graves or spilling their gins at the current time, I think generally transparency has resulted in very good progress."

The bill shifts responsibility for travel and accommodation of MPs and ministers away from the Speaker and Prime Minister to the Remuneration Authority plus an additional person with knowledge in the area.

The bill also sets in law a requirement by MPs to disclose their travel and accommodation costs quarterly, a practice instigated on a voluntary basis by Speaker Lockwood Smith.

And the bill contains what is known as the "Chris Carter clause" after the ex-Labour MP who went awol after his expulsion from caucus: it increases the penalty for being absent from Parliament without good cause from its present $10 a day to $270 a day.

Mr Finlayson acknowledged that the issue of travel and accommodation entitlements had caused the most public concern.

The bill would improve the independence in determining that support.

It recognised the need for members to be properly supported but maintained confidence in the integrity of Parliament.

The Speaker would continue to be responsible for setting allocations for party and member support funding, and the administrative, communications and support services for MPs and parties.


It passed its first reading and will be considered by the Government administration committee.