By Duncan Garner
Labour MP Chris Carter is tonight defending a planned two-and-a-half week trip to Europe as just doing his job.
Mr Carter was much-criticised for his hefty travel bills when he was a minister, but now Carter is off to observe the upcoming UK elections.
Mr Carter was dubbed the 'Minister for Overseas Travel' when he was in office, spending $131,000 over a year. Now in opposition and with the spotlight on MPs' spending, Mr Carter has had to be more careful.
3 News can now reveal he is off to Europe for two-and-a-half weeks, including more than a week observing the UK general election.
Mr Carter will be in Berlin on the April 26 for two days. He'll then head to the Polish capital of Warsaw for two days. He'll be in the UK from May 1 to May 9, observing the UK elections - it's likely to include a trip to Ireland. He'll then go to Paris for two days He's likely to then have a day in Brussels and then return home.
Mr Carter told 3 News the only taxpayer-funded part of the trip is the heavily-subsidised return airfares to Europe he's entitled to as a long-serving MP, and he's likely to fly business class.
Mr Carter says he will pay for all his internal travel in Europe and will personally meet the cost of the accommodation himself, as he is staying with an old friend in London.
Mr Carter's time out of the country has been approved by Labour leader Phil Goff.
Mr Carter says the trip is all work.
High commissions and embassies in Wellington have put together his programme.
He has yet to decide whether he will take his partner, who Mr Carter says will pay his own way if he goes.
Mr Carter told 3 News he would be disappointed if we did this story about his European trip. He pointed out he hadn't been overseas this year, and as Labour's Foreign Affairs spokesman, travel was part of his job. He says 3 News is unfairly targeting him because of his past spending, and says other Labour MPs have indeed been overseas on holidays this year without media attention.
Mr Carter wouldn't say who, but it is understood David Parker went to Cuba for more than two weeks and David Cunliffe was hosted by the Japanese government last week.
3 News understands the Government's Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is currently holidaying in Samoa. She says she paid for it all herself.
But Mr Carter says the scrutiny won't stop him doing his job, and he intends to go to Pakistan and India later in the year.