Sir Richard Branson 'delighted' by Parliament's removal of tie rule

Billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson has weighed into the Parliamentary tie debate, saying people "should be able to wear whatever they want". 

Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard this week declared ties optional, after Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi sparked a debate by wearing a Māori hei tiki instead. Mallard on Tuesday booted him out for not wearing proper "business attire", but by Thursday had updated the rules to make traditional Western neckties optional. 

Branson, who set up Virgin Group which owns Virgin Airlines, tweeted his support for the change on Friday saying he was "delighted that New Zealand's Parliament has seen sense and said bye to the tie". 

"After @Rawiri_Waititi was thrown out of Parliament for wearing a traditional Māori pendant, the country has removed its archaic requirement for members to wear ties."

"People should be able to wear whatever they are most comfortable in, and everyone should respect that freedom, whether they are at a laptop in their living room or presenting in Parliament," he said. 

But not everyone agrees. National MPs Simon Bridges and Simeon Brown have both hit out at the change.

On Thursday, Brown condemned Mallard's decision calling it "disappointing" and branding it as a "lowering of standards".

"The Speaker has changed his decision regarding wearing ties in Parliament and now they are optional. A lowering of standards," Brown, 29, wrote on social media.

"Whilst this isn't the most important issue facing our country it is a disappointing decision made for the wrong reasons.

"Parliament is an institution which should have high standards - as we make decision [sic] which affect every New Zealander in significant ways."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had no personal objection to ties not being worn in Parliament, but she thought there were more important issues to discuss in the debating chamber.

"I don't think New Zealanders care about ties," she said.

The tie debate was picked up by several international news outlets, including the BBC and The Guardian.

In an article on Tuesday, the BBC noted Waititi's past aversion to the accessory, which he has previously dubbed "a colonial noose".

It then revisited a previous "tie-based spat", with Waititi given a warning on the same grounds late last year for failing to wear the correct attire in the House.

A Dunedin-based journalist for The Guardian also covered the story, noting that the Māori Party co-leader had chosen to wear the cultural item in defiance of the dress code.

Speaker Mallard announced the rule change on Wednesday. 

"As Speaker, I am guided by the committee's discussion and therefore ties will no longer be considered required as part of 'appropriate business attire'," Mallard said in a statement.

"I acknowledge those who felt this was an important issue worthy of further consideration," he said.