Hugh Watt

This article is about the New Zealand politician. For other uses, see Hugh Watt (disambiguation).
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 (1912-03-19)19 March 1912
Perth, Western Australia
Died 4 February 1980(1980-02-04) (aged 67)
Auckland, New Zealand
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) (1) Alice Merry Fowke (m. 1935; div 1965)
(2) 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 and 6 September 1974 following the death of Norman Kirk.

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

Early life

Watt 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. He was born in Perth, Western Australia, in 1912, but emigrated to New Zealand with his family when he was a child. He attended Seddon Memorial Technical College, where he studied engineering, and established his own engineering business in 1947.[1]

Political career

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate Party
19531954 30th Onehunga Labour
19541957 31st Onehunga Labour
19571960 32nd Onehunga Labour
19601963 33rd Onehunga Labour
19631966 34th Onehunga Labour
19661969 35th Onehunga Labour
19691972 36th Onehunga Labour
19721975 37th Onehunga Labour

He stood unsuccessfully for Labour in Remuera in 1949 and in Parnell in 1951.[2] 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.[3]

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).[4] 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).[5]

Bill Rowling replaced Kirk as Prime Minister, although the party National Executive and the Federation of Labour preferred Watt.[6] In the Rowling ministry, he remained the portfolio of Works and Development, and was appointed to the Executive Council without portfolio.[7]

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.[8] 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."[9]


He died in 1980 in Auckland's Greenlane Hospital.[10]


  1. "Hugh Watt — politician of the people". New Zealand Herald. 6 February 1980. p. 14.
  2. Norton 1988, pp. 314, 331.
  3. Wilson 1985, p. 244.
  4. Wilson 1985, p. 88.
  5. Wilson 1985, p. 92.
  6. Auckland Star 5 September 1974 p11
  7. Wilson 1985, p. 93.
  8. Hay, John (22 February 1975). "New Zealand: Island unties apron strings". The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 24 September 2014.
  9. The Evening Post 13 June 1975
  10. "Mr Rowling pays tribute to 'gentleman Hugh Watt'". New Zealand Herald. 6 February 1980. p. 3.


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
Party political offices
Preceded by
Fred Hackett
Deputy-Leader of the Labour Party
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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