Labour welfare spokesperson stood down as mother faces benefit fraud charges

The Labour Party's welfare spokesperson has been stood down from that role following a ONE News revelation.

The mother of high-ranking Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni is due to appear in court on Thursday on benefit fraud charges. Source: 1 NEWS

ONE News has discovered high-ranking MP Carmel Sepuloni's mother, Beverley Anne Sepuloni, is due to appear in court tomorrow on benefit fraud charges. She is expected to plead to the charges tomorrow.

Carmel Sepuloni, a young rising star in Andrew Little's Labour Party, was the party's spokesperson on welfare - until this afternoon. One News called the Labour leader's office just after 2pm today and by 4pm he had stood Carmel Sepuloni down. He moved fast.

"We've agreed that she will step aside from her role as spokesperson for Social Development. There's an obvious conflict of interest," Mr Little says.

Mr Little decided to stand Carmel Sepuloni down after ONE News revealed the accusations against her mother.

Beverley Anne Sepuloni is due to appear in the New Plymouth District Court tomorrow morning on 19 charges laid a month ago. She's accused of claiming the sickness benefit in 2006 when she shouldn't have. She's also accused of applying for the disability allowance in 2008 when she shouldn't have. 

It's alleged she claimed rent subsidies between 2003 and 2010 which she wasn't entitled to. And she's also accused of failing to tell welfare officials - for 10-and-a-half years - that she was living with a partner.

Ms Sepuloni didn't want to be interviewed today. ONE News called Ms Sepuloni and apparently broke the news to her. She told us she didn't know anything about her mother's charges.

She explained: "I don't actually have a lot to do with her." But she did admit: "It puts me in an awkward position."

And that's why she's stood aside as Labour's welfare spokesperson. It is embarrassing and it could have made it harder to do her job of holding others to account.

"Well it's because as spokesperson for Social Development, when she has a close family member involved in an issue like this, it's appropriate that she step aside so that there's no claim of a conflict of interest," Mr Little says.

'Carmel Sepuloni herself has done nothing wrong'

ONE News political reporter Heather du Plessis-Allan says there's no suggestion of any further action against Carmel Sepuloni to follow, "because it's worth remembering that Carmel Sepuloni herself has done nothing wrong".

Ms Sepuloni will retain her other shadow portfolios and the job of junior whip "and in fact when this case is done and dusted she may get that Social Development portfolio back," du Plessis-Allan says.

"It is worth pointing out she is disappointed though, I'm told, because that is a big job that she has lost."

Our political reporter says Mr Little had no other option in this instance than to stand down Ms Sepuloni after telling the Prime Minister he should have stood Mike Sabin down over an alleged conflict of interest.