Parental leave committee divided

A Parliamentary committee is divided on whether paid parental leave should be extended by 12 weeks, despite official advice which showed it could cost less than the Government predicted.

The Government Administration select committee released its report on Labour MP Sue Moroney's bill this morning, saying it was unable to agree on whether the bill should be passed.

The private member's bill is believed to have the numbers to pass into law, but Finance Minister Bill English has previously said the Government would use its powers to veto it because it was unaffordable.

Ms Moroney accused National of using delaying tactics. She accepted National's request late last year to give the committee more time so the party could reconsider its position.

"I agreed to that extension in good faith, but National members introduced no amendments and then voted down the work the select committee had done," she said.

The committee's report showed that of 3809 submissions on extending paid parental leave from 14 to 26 weeks, 99.6 per cent were in favour.

The report also gave detailed costings for extending paid parental leave.

Treasury estimated the additional cost would be $276 million over three years, with savings of at least $28.4 million once the scheme was fully implemented.

The bill proposed a staged increase, adding four weeks of leave each year over three years.

Ms Moroney said: "The report ... shows Bill English's assertion that the bill would cost $500m in three years was over-egged with official advice to the committee costing the net amount at $220m over the next three years."

Prime Minister John Key said yesterday that the Government was yet to decide on its final position on paid parental leave.

He indicated there would be an increase in the May Budget, but it would not go as far as the 26 weeks proposed by Ms Moroney's bill.

"We are working our way through it, in terms of Budget bids. Twenty-six weeks is not affordable, but we do think some extension might be."

- By Isaac Davison of the New Zealand Herald

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