Banks saga awkward timing for MPs

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 05:00 07/06/2014

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Members of Parliament face returning there in early August for a single vote not to hold a by-election, amid signs ACT MP John Banks will resist pressure to resign.

On Thursday, Banks was found guilty of knowingly filing a false electoral return in relation to donations he received from Kim Dotcom during his unsuccessful bid for the Auckland mayoralty in 2010.

However, he was not convicted, so while the charges mean he faces being kicked out of Parliament, he is free to remain an MP until at least his sentencing on August 1.

Parliament is due to rise on July 31 ahead of the September election, but will not be formally dissolved until August 14, creating what legal experts say is "awkward" timing.

Within six months of the election, Parliament can resolve not to hold a by-election if 75 per cent of MPs agree.

However, if Banks holds on and is convicted before Parliament is dissolved, any vote will require MPs to come back to Parliament to formally pass the resolution, otherwise a by-election will automatically be triggered.

Yesterday, a spokesman for Prime Minister John Key said no plans had been made for MPs to return after the House rises.

Speaking in Nelson yesterday, Key described questions around Parliament returning for a vote on a by-election as "technical" and it was a moot point because he did not believe MPs would want a by-election so close to the election.

He again defended Banks, but added that the Government would consider not using his vote in Parliament for the rest of the term.

Banks did not return phone calls yesterday, but former ACT party MP John Boscawen, who was in the High Court at Auckland on Thursday, said he had a number of options, including appeal and discharge without conviction.

"He certainly believes he's innocent and he certainly believes he didn't knowingly file a false return."

A source close to Banks said he was focused on his legal strategy and the implications for Parliament if he was convicted. He had more than a week to consider his options as Parliament was in recess for another week.

The source said friends were counselling him to do what was right for him after 40 years of public service, and did not believe National would pressure him into resigning.

Labour leader David Cunliffe said it was clearly time for Banks to go, with only a "technicality" keeping him in Parliament.

"The National Government has no credibility while it continues to be propped up by an MP found guilty of knowingly filing a false electoral return. This goes to the very heart of the public's faith in our electoral system."

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- The Dominion Post

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