Bill Veitch

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The Honourable
Bill Veitch
Bill Veitch.jpg
11th Minister of Railways
In office
13 December 1930 – 31 August 1931
Prime Minister George Forbes
Preceded by William Taverner
Succeeded by George Forbes
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Wanganui
In office
1911 – 1935
Preceded by James Thomas Hogan
Succeeded by Joseph Cotterill
Personal details
Born William Andrew Veitch
(1870-05-25)25 May 1870
Port of Menteith, Perthshire, Scotland
Died 1 January 1961(1961-01-01) (aged 90)
Paraparaumu, New Zealand
Political party United Labour (1912–16)
Liberal (1922–28)
United (1928–35)
Democrat (1935)
National (1943)
Awards and honours King George V Silver Jubilee Medal, 1935
King George VI Coronation Medal, 1937

William Andrew Veitch (25 May 1870 – 1 January 1961) was a New Zealand politician. He began his career in the labour movement, but was a strong opponent of socialism, and rejected the militant views held by many of his colleagues.

Early life

Veitch was born in Port of Menteith, a small town in Perthshire, Scotland. After receiving a basic education, he worked for the post and telegraph service until 1887. He then moved to New Zealand, briefly taking up gum digging before returning to telegraphs. In 1889, he joined the railways, eventually becoming an engine driver.

During his railway career, he became active in the rail-workers union, and in 1908, he became its president. In comparison to other unionists at the time, Veitch was relatively moderate in his views, but was still dissatisfied with the government's response to various grievances. Believing that workers' goals were better served by political action than strikes, Veitch contested the Wanganui seat in the 1911 election, and defeated the incumbent MP, James Thomas Hogan. Despite there being two labour-aligned parties contesting the election, Veitch chose to stand as an independent Labourite.[1]

Parliamentary career

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1911–12 18th Wanganui Independent Labour
1912–14 Changed allegiance to: United Labour
1914–16 19th Wanganui United Labour
1916–19 Changed allegiance to: Independent
1919–22 20th Wanganui Independent
1922–25 21st Wanganui Liberal
1925–28 22nd Wanganui Liberal
1928 Changed allegiance to: United
1928–31 23rd Wanganui United
1931–35 24th Wanganui United

Early career

In Parliament, Veitch initially voted against the Liberal government of Joseph Ward. This was part agreement he had made with the opposition Reform Party, which had offered him support in his election bid. After discharging this obligation, however, he immediately became a Liberal Party supporter, voting in favour of Ward only two days later. He considered joining the Liberal Party, but when the new United Labour Party (ULP) was founded in 1912, Veitch joined that instead.

The following year, when the ULP agreed to merge with the Socialist Party to form the Social Democratic Party, Veitch was among those who rejected the move, and continued to work under the ULP banner. His primary concern with the new Social Democrats were clauses which required the party to support strikes, which Veitch believed were ineffective and unnecessarily disruptive to society. Most of the ULP dissenters were eventually re-united with the Social Democrats when the modern Labour Party was formed, but Veitch remained in Parliament as an independent. In 1917, he unsuccessfully contested the Wanganui mayoralty.

Liberal Party

In 1922, he finally joined what remained of the Liberal Party. The Liberals were disunited and disorganised, and Veitch was a significant figure in the party's rejuvenation. In 1928, Veitch joined his faction of the Liberals with others led by George Forbes and Albert Davy, creating the United Party. Veitch and Forbes contested the leadership of the new group, but in the end, the position was given to Joseph Ward, a former Liberal Prime Minister brought in by Davy as a compromise candidate.

United Government

When the United Party formed a government, Veitch became a member of Cabinet, holding the mining, labour, and transport portfolios. Later, when Forbes succeeded Ward as Prime Minister, Veitch dropped the mining and labour portfolios and was made Minister of Railways. When United formed a coalition with the Reform Party, Veitch lost his position to make room for ministers from Reform. Later, when the coalition government devalued the currency, Veitch began to reject his party's leadership, and tried to convince William Downie Stewart to form a new party.

End of Parliamentary career and later years

In 1935, Veitch joined the "anti-socialist" Democrat Party launched by Albert Davy; but he was defeated in his re-election bid for Wanganui in the 1935 general election by the Labour candidate Joseph Cotterill.

Considerably later, in 1943, Veitch stood for the National Party (the successor to the United-Reform coalition) in the Wellington Suburbs electorate, but was unsuccessful.

He was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal in 1935[2] and the 1937 Coronation Medal for services to New Zealand (NZ Roll of Honour, p. 1095).

Veitch died in Paraparaumu in 1961.


  1. ^ Beaglehole, Diana. "Veitch, William Andrew". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  2. ^ "Official jubilee medals". Evening Post. 6 May 1935. p. 4. Retrieved 2 July 2013. 

Further reading

  • The New Zealand Liberals: the Years of Power, 1891–1912 by David Hamer (1988, Auckland University Press, Auckland)
  • Three Party Politics in New Zealand by Michael Bassett (1982, Historical Publications, Auckland)
  • Labour's Path to Political Independence: the Origins and Establishment of the NZ Labour Party 1900–1919 by Barry Gustafson (1980, Oxford University Press, Auckland)
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
James Thomas Hogan
Member of Parliament for Wanganui
Succeeded by
Joseph Cotterill
Political offices
Preceded by
William Taverner
Minister of Railways
Succeeded by
George Forbes
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