2.50 To protect the integrity of the decision-making process of executive government and to maintain public trust in the Executive, Ministers and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries must conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to their office. Accordingly, the guidance in paragraphs 2.52 - 2.96:
2.51 The guidance on conduct, public duty, and personal interests applies to all Ministers (inside and outside Cabinet) and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries. References to Ministers in this guidance include Parliamentary Under-Secretaries.
2.52 A Minister of the Crown, while holding a ministerial warrant, acts in a number of different capacities:
2.53 In all these roles and at all times, Ministers are expected to act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards. Ultimately, Ministers are accountable to the Prime Minister for their behaviour.
2.55 All members of Parliament are required to disclose certain assets and interests in an annual Register of Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament. This register, administered by the Registrar of Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament, is designed to promote accountability and transparency by identifying personal financial interests that might influence members of Parliament. The detailed requirements are set out in appendix B of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives (the Standing Orders) and in the explanatory notes on members' financial interests in the "MPs and parties" section on Parliament's website, www.parliament.nz. See also paragraphs 2.78 - 2.85 on gifts.
2.56 Additional requirements apply to Ministers' interests. Conflicts of interest may arise between Ministers' personal interests and their public duty because of the influence and power that Ministers exercise, and the information to which they have access, both in the individual performance of their portfolio responsibilities and as members of the Executive.
2.57 Ministers are responsible for ensuring that no conflict exists or appears to exist between their personal interests and their public duty. Ministers must conduct themselves at all times in the knowledge that their role is a public one; appearances and propriety can be as important as an actual conflict of interest. Ministers should avoid situations in which they or those close to them gain remuneration or other advantage from information acquired only by reason of their office.
2.58 The Cabinet Office, on behalf of the Prime Minister, supports Ministers in identifying and managing conflicts of interest that may arise in relation to their portfolios or other ministerial responsibilities. Accordingly:
2.59 Ministers themselves are responsible for proactively identifying and reviewing possible conflicts of interest and ensuring that any conflicts of interest are promptly addressed by taking one or more of the measures set out in paragraph 2.70.
2.60 A conflict of interest may be pecuniary (that is, arising from the Minister's direct financial interests) or non-pecuniary (concerning, for example, a member of the Minister's family). A conflict of interest may be direct or indirect. Ministers must consider all types of interest when assessing whether any of their personal interests may conflict with, or be perceived to conflict with, their ministerial responsibilities.
2.61 Pecuniary interests are financial interests such as assets, debts, and gifts. A pecuniary conflict of interest may arise if a Minister could reasonably be perceived as standing to gain or lose financially from decisions or acts for which he or she is responsible, or from information to which he or she has access. A pecuniary conflict of interest could, for example, relate to the value of land or shares that a Minister owns, or the turnover of a business in which a Minister has an ownership interest.
2.62 A conflict may arise if people close to a Minister, such as a Minister's family, whānau, or close associates, might derive, or be perceived as deriving, some personal, financial, or other benefit from a decision or action by the Minister or the government. Ministers must therefore be careful not to use information they access in the course of their official activities in a way that might provide some special benefit to family members, whānau, or close associates. Passing on commercially sensitive information, or encouraging others to trade on the basis of that information, may also breach the insider trading regime. (See paragraphs 8.10 - 8.12.) Such a breach may result in a significant fine or term of imprisonment.
2.64 Public perception is a very important factor. If a conflict arises in relation to the interests of family, whānau, or close associates, Ministers should take appropriate action. (See paragraph 2.70.)
2.65 Ministers do not act in isolation from their political, constituency, and community networks. Indeed, some Ministers are elected to Parliament because of their close association with and advocacy for particular interest groups. Participation in decision making by such Ministers allows Cabinet to consider diverse viewpoints in reaching a collective decision.
2.67 Any possible conflict arising from association with a non-public body should be dealt with using the measures set out in paragraph 2.70.
2.68 A conflict will not generally arise from a generic interest held as one of a class of persons or held in common with the public; for example, an interest in education issues where the Minister has school-age children, or an interest in issues affecting Māori where the Minister is Māori.
2.69 Ministers must ensure that any conflicts of interest are promptly addressed. The Secretary of the Cabinet (and, where appropriate, the chief executive of the department concerned) should be kept informed of conflicts of interest as they arise. In addition, the Prime Minister should be advised in writing of conflicts that are of particular concern or that require ongoing management. If in doubt about the appropriate course of action, Ministers should consult the Prime Minister or the Secretary of the Cabinet.
2.70 If a conflict between a Minister's portfolio responsibilities and a personal interest is substantial and enduring, it may be necessary to consider a permanent change to some or all of the Minister's portfolio responsibilities. However, most conflicts can be managed by taking one or more of the following measures.
2.71 The Standing Orders require a member of Parliament who has a financial interest in an item of business in the House to declare that interest before consideration of the item. The member need not declare an interest that has already been disclosed in the Register of Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament. The Standing Orders define a financial interest as including an interest held by a member's spouse, domestic partner, or dependent child. The Speaker can decide any dispute about whether a conflict exists. The rules are set out in the section entitled "Declaration of financial interests" in the chapter on general procedures in the Standing Orders.
2.72 Occasionally, a Minister may find that he or she has a conflict concerning a bill, or part of a bill, for which he or she has portfolio responsibility. The Standing Orders do not preclude a Minister who declares a financial interest (as defined in the Standing Orders) from moving motions relating to a bill of which he or she is in charge. Nonetheless, a Minister with any conflict concerning a bill for which he or she has portfolio responsibility may choose to arrange for another Minister to move formal motions relating to that bill. Any issue of this sort must be discussed in advance with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House, and the relevant Whip. The portfolio Minister is not permitted to be present in the House when another Minister moves the motions on the portfolio Minister's behalf, but may declare the conflict in a subsequent speech.
2.73 A member of Parliament is always entitled to make representations to a Minister on an issue of concern in the member's electorate or an issue of general constituency concern.
2.74 Where a member of Parliament is also a Minister, but has no portfolio responsibility in the areas relating to the issue of interest to him or her as a member of Parliament, the Minister may make representations to the Minister with the portfolio responsibility. Ministers representing the concerns of constituents (or the concerns of other sectors of the community; for example, in the case of list members) should be clear at all times, however, that they are acting in their capacity as members of Parliament (for example, by signing correspondence as a member of Parliament).
2.75 Where the member also holds the relevant portfolio or is the Associate Minister, further measures, as set out in paragraph 2.70, are likely to be needed to manage any possible conflict. If the matter is minor, the Minister may be able to pass it to the department. If the matter is more significant, the Minister may instead pass responsibility for it to another Minister.
2.76 Alternatively, the Minister may retain ministerial responsibility for the matter and ask another member of Parliament (for example, a local list member, the member from a neighbouring electorate, or a member with a particular interest in the issue) to represent the constituency on the matter.
2.77 As with all conflicts of interest, Ministers should exercise careful judgement about possible conflicts between their constituency interests and their ministerial roles. They need to be alert at all times to the possibility that a conflict might exist or be perceived to exist. The Secretary of the Cabinet is available to advise in cases of doubt.