Prime Minister Bill English has confirmed he told police National MP Todd Barclay had made secret recordings of a staff member.
The bombshell admission comes just hours after English categorically told media he would not discuss what he told police, and could not recall who told him Barclay had made recordings.
It directly contradicts Barclay's repeated assertion he hadn't told English of the recordings. There will now be questions over his future as an MP, as well as whether police should re-open their investigation.
Asked why as Prime Minister he hadn't revealed that information sooner, English said he had told police.
"I made a statement to police, the police investigated it, the investigation was completed and as far as I was concerned those issues have been dealt with.
"The substance of my statement to police is he told me there were recordings of his staff."
English today came under intense pressure, after it emerged he last year sent text messages to former Clutha-Southland electorate chairman Stuart Davie stating Barclay had recorded his former electorate agent Glenys Dickson.
It is illegal to intentionally intercept private communications you are not party to. Police investigated for 10 months after a complaint from Dickson, but concluded there was insufficient evidence after Barclay declined to be interviewed.
The text from English to Davie on February 21 last year read: "He left a dictaphone running that picked up all conversations in the office. Just the office end of phone conversations. The settlement was larger than normal because of the privacy breach."
After the text exchange was reported by Newsroom, English confirmed the text message was his, but repeatedly said he could not recall who told him about the alleged recording, but said it was possible that information had come from Barclay.
Barclay categorically stated he had not told the Prime Minister about any recording. Asked directly if he used a dictaphone to record Dickson, he said, "I've seen the allegations and I totally refute them".
English said those statements were now a matter for Barclay to consider.
English's office has released his statement to police in which he tells an officer: "I had a conversation with him regarding Glenys Dickson leaving his office and he said to me that he had recordings of her criticising him...he said he had just left a dictaphone on."
During the controversy last year - and after he had sent the text message to Davie confirming the recording - English was asked if he knew the reasons for staff resignations in Barclay's office, or if he had spoken to them, and said no: "These are issues between them and their MP, I keep pretty clear of the electorate. It's not my job to run it".
Asked today if that was misleading, English said he had told police about what he knew.
"The statement I made was to the police, who then had the opportunity to investigate all aspects of the allegations."
Asked if Barclay had lied, English said, "you'll have to ask him".
Labour leader Andrew Little criticised English's leadership on the issue, saying that he was protecting his protege in the Southland seat and that he had deflected questions about it over the last year. English had told media not to "overdramatise" the situation in March, Little said.
"All that time he was, in fact, donkey deep in this scandal."
Barclay refused to speak to police for their investigation after taking legal advice, and Little said today that English should now compel him to make a statement.
"He's in public office that demands public confidence and he has a moral duty to cooperate with the Police.
"How can he have any credibility when he is part of the institution of Parliament that allocates money for law and order in this country?"
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said Barclay could not remain an MP, but the Prime Minister's integrity had also been seriously compromised.
"Bill English has been found out to not tell the truth. It's that clean. And if he doesn't like that he can sue me for defamation. You will find now he is in the echo chamber of forgettery, so to speak.
"There has been a cover-up all the way to the Prime Minister's office. More significantly, why the police did not complete that inquiry into an illegal or criminal act, I don't know."
Police assistant commissioner Richard Chambers said the key information about English was redacted under the information release, because of privacy considerations given the case never proceeded to prosecution.
"Police consulted those individuals who provided statements as part of the investigation. The redacted file that was released took into account the views of the individuals consulted."
The Herald has asked for the redacted information. Chambers said such requests would be considered.
It and the text messages were not released by police with other information this year, after an Official Information Act application from the Herald.
Chambers said there was not enough evidence to seek search warrants during the Barclay investigation.
Newsroom also revealed today that Barclay's selection in Southland was being reviewed by the National Party because of concerns that electorate branches had been "stacked".
It said that in one case, four of the six voting delegates at a electorate branch were Barclay's family members.
Barclay suggested this morning that his re-selection in the seat last year had vindicated him. He said he had gone through a "robust, transparent" process and had "won convincingly".
"My people and supporters down there clearly see it for what it is."
Party president Peter Goodfellow said this morning that Barclay's re-selection earlier this year included a "big attendance from the local electorate" and was voted on by more than 100 delegates.