The focus is on Prime Minister Bill English after his under-fire MP Todd Barclay announced he would not seek re-election because of a secret recording controversy.

Barclay appeared to be digging in last night, but after conversations with senior party figures issued a statement today confirming he would not seek re-election as Clutha-Southland MP.

A short time later English fronted media, and said Barclay had made the right call, and denied the controversy would hurt National with only months to go until the election.

"I don't think of itself it is damaging. These sorts of issues arise commonly in politics, and this one has been dealt with I think pretty decisively. Principally because of the decision by Mr Barclay to stand down."

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Most questions from the media - and later from opposition MPs in question time - focused on English's own actions after Barclay last year confided he left a dictaphone running in his electorate office, recording his staff member Glenys Dickson.

Dickson complained to police and English later gave a statement outlining the conversation with Barclay. But that did not emerge until an investigation by Newsroom uncovered a text message he had sent to former electorate chairman Stuart Davie confirming Barclay had recordings.

English initially said he couldn't recall who told him about the recordings outlined in his text and Barclay denied he had told the Prime Minister he had recordings. But within four hours his office released his police statement, and Barclay apologised for "misleading" statements.

Opposition parties have accused English of being involved in a cover-up.

Today, English said there was a confidential employment agreement between Barclay's former staffer Glenys Dickson and Barclay.

Todd Barclay will leave Parliament at the next election. Photo / File
Todd Barclay will leave Parliament at the next election. Photo / File

"Then it became the subject of a police investigation. I made a statement to the police, I think I was reasonable to assume that whatever issues were involved...were being investigated by police.

"I don't accept the assertion nothing was done about it. I reported it to the appropriate party official...I reported it to the police...because it was under investigation I was unsure about what I could or couldn't say."

He would stick by his statement if police re-open the investigation into Barclay - they are currently reviewing whether new information has come to light in the last couple days.

Asked if the public would ever have known of Barclay's recordings had it not been for media, English said the allegations about the recordings had been in the media for years.

"They may have been denied. But if the question is, would the public have known about them, then they [allegations about recordings] have been published widely in the media for several years."

Despite Barclay last night saying English's statement to police was correct, English today said there was still uncertainty about what exactly happened or if recordings existed.

Asked if Barclay had in fact resigned to save English's credibility, the Prime Minister said Barclay had outlined his reasons for a decision that was very difficult to make. English said he didn't speak to Barclay directly: "he made the decision".

James Shaw said the police should not have closed the investigation into Todd Barclay. Photo / Mark Mitchell
James Shaw said the police should not have closed the investigation into Todd Barclay. Photo / Mark Mitchell