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Hugh Watt

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Title: Hugh Watt  
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Subject: Third Labour Government of New Zealand, 37th New Zealand Parliament, 30th New Zealand Parliament, 1973 in New Zealand, 1972 in New Zealand
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Hugh Watt

The Right Honourable
Hugh Watt
5th Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand
In office
8 December 1972 – 1 September 1974
Prime Minister Norman Kirk
Preceded by Robert Muldoon
Succeeded by Bob Tizard
Constituency Onehunga
Acting Prime Minister of New Zealand
In office
1 September 1974 – 6 September 1974
Preceded by (Norman Kirk †)
Succeeded by Bill Rowling
Personal details
Born 19 March 1912
Perth, Western Australia
Died 4 February 1980(1980-02-04) (aged 67)
Wellington, New Zealand
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Irene Frances Watt
Children 4

Hugh Watt  PC (19 March 1912 – 4 February 1980) was a Labour member of Parliament and briefly the Interim Prime Minister of New Zealand between 1 September 1974 – 6 September 1974 following the death of Norman Kirk.

He had been Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1972–1974.

Early life

He was Australian-born, like Labour Party founders such as Harry Holland, Michael Joseph Savage, Bob Semple and Paddy Webb and later MPs such as Mabel Howard and Clarence Skinner.

Political career

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate Party
1953–1954 30th Onehunga Labour
1954–1957 31st Onehunga Labour
1957–1960 32nd Onehunga Labour
1960–1963 33rd Onehunga Labour
1963–1966 34th Onehunga Labour
1966–1969 35th Onehunga Labour
1969–1972 36th Onehunga Labour
1972–1975 37th Onehunga Labour

He stood unsuccessfully for Labour in Remuera in 1949 and in Parnell in 1951.[1] He then won Onehunga in a 1953 by-election after the death of Arthur Osborne, and held it to 1975. He retired at the 1975 general election in favour of Frank Rogers.[2]

Watt was first appointed as a minister in the Second Labour Government led by Walter Nash; he was Minister of Works (1957–1960) and Minister of Electricity (1958–1960).[3] During the Third Labour Government, in the ministry led by Norman Kirk, he was Minister of Labour (1972–1974) and Minister of Works and Development (1972–1974).[4]

Bill Rowling replaced Kirk as Prime Minister, although the party National Executive and the Federation of Labour preferred Watt.[5] In the Rowling ministry, he remained the portfolio of Works and Development, and was appointed to the Executive Council without portfolio.[6]

Watt was appointed New Zealand's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom effective from 22 March 1975 for three years. Controversially, he stayed on as a member of parliament and Cabinet Minister.[7] In June 1975, Watt was asked if he was about to resign as an MP. He stated that: "If I were to resign now as a Member of Parliament [for Onehunga] it would mean that I would lose my Cabinet status and the unique position that I have as High Commissioner with Executive Council rank that gives me access to British Government Ministers."[8]


He died in 1980 in Wellington.


  1. ^ Norton 1988, pp. 314, 331.
  2. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 244.
  3. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 88.
  4. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 92.
  5. ^ Auckland Star 5 September 1974 p11
  6. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 93.
  7. ^ Hay, John (22 February 1975). "New Zealand: Island unties apron strings".  
  8. ^ The Evening Post 13 June 1975


New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Arthur Osborne
Member of Parliament for Onehunga
Succeeded by
Frank Rogers
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Muldoon
Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Bob Tizard
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Terry McCombs
High Commissioner of New Zealand to the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
Douglas Carter
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