New Zealand First MP Ron Mark apologised to Parliament yesterday for having made an obscene gesture three times the previous day directed at National MP Tau Henare.

But TV3 may be censured by the Speaker for broadcasting the MP's gesture because he was sitting down at the time, not on his feet speaking.

Mr Mark gave a one-fingered gesture, sometimes called "the bird" or "flipping the bird".

It has the same meaning as giving "the fingers".

After a complaint on Tuesday to the Speaker, who had not seen the gesture, Mr Mark apologised.

But yesterday National MP Bill English produced a blown-up photograph in Parliament of Mr Mark's offending gesture and said he had got off lightly compared with two of his colleagues who had been ejected from the House.

Mr Mark was upset by Mr Henare's claim that Mr Mark had supported National's purchase of the naval sealift ship HMNZS Charles Upham.

Mr Henare, who was once a caucus colleague of Mr Mark, also made a facial gesture to Mr Mark - pulling down the skin below his eye with a finger.

Mr Henare later said he believed it signified being a cry-baby but other sources say some people see it as denoting women's genitals and that is intended to be an insult.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen told the Speaker that broadcasting the picture was against the rules because cameras are supposed to capture only MPs who are speaking at the time.

TV3 last night showed that Mr Mark had given the one-fingered salute three times in quick succession: twice when sitting down and once when he had the speaking call but he put a sheet of paper in front of him.

Mr Mark said he apologised unreservedly if he had caused offence and brought the House into disrepute.

Under the rules, TV3 would be entitled to show the clip of Mr English showing the photograph of the obscene gesture but not the gesture itself, except for the one Mr Mark sought to disguise.

Speaker Margaret Wilson said she would have a look at the footage.

Act leader Rodney Hide expressed concern that if Parliament took responsibility for its own broadcasting that such events would not be shown and that MPs would be "protected" in a way that they are now not.

TV3 was prevented from filming in the House for a week last year after screening a picture of Cabinet minister David Benson Pope asleep during question time.

And the now defunct Evening Post newspaper was banned for a week for running a picture of a Wellington MP at the time, Annabel Young, yawning during a marathon sitting of Parliament to reform the Employment Contracts Act in 2000.