National MPs appear to have walked out of a crucial Parliamentary Committee which organises the running of Parliament.
The immediate effect of their boycott of the Business Committee is that they cannot replace their resigned MP on the Health Committee thereby giving the Government a majority.
And they are placing in jeopardy a plan to allow some provincial MPs to leave earlier on Thursdays so they can get home that night after Air New Zealand changed the provincial timetable to cut out some night flights to the provinces.
That proposal is before the Committee but requires bipartisan support to action it.
Other routine decisions made by the committee which require bipartisan support will now have to be put to the whole House to be voted on.
The walkout has been led by National’s Shadow Leader of the House, Gerry Brownlee but also includes the party’s two whips, Barbara Kuriger and Matt Doocey.
The Speaker, Trevor Mallard, who chairs the Committee says he has received no advice from National as to why they failed to attend last week’s committee meeting.
A senior National source told POLITIK that Brownlee had not walked out the meeting; “he is just not going to them.”
National MPs claim that the Speaker, Trevor Mallard, has been highly partisan in the way he has been running Question Time.
The source spoken to by POLITIK said this was a reason for Brownlee’s non-appearance.
But Mallard told POLITIK last night that he had had no notification from National as to why they did not attend last week’s meeting or whether they would be at this week’s.
Brownlee himself was not available for comment last night.
The issue surfaced in a veiled way in Parliament last Thursday.
The Leader of the House addresses Parliament at its start each day with any news about Bills that might be introduced or how Bills might be debated.
National MP, Michael Woodhouse, filling in for Brownlee as Shadow Leader, asked if the House leader (Chris Hipkins) could indicate “whether parliamentary colleagues should be clearing their diaries and planning for urgency on Friday, 18 May.”(the day after the Budget)
Hipkins replied: “ I can assure the House that I have fully informed the Business Committee of the Government’s intentions in that regard.”
The clear implication was that had National attended the meeting they would know.
Hipkins’ answer was greeted with laughter from the Government benches suggesting that word of the National boycott had begun to spread.
If the boycott continues it is likely Labour will replace Coleman with a Labour MP thereby ending the 4 – 4 voting split on that committee and giving it a Government majority.