Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor has conceded that playing rugby in France with a suspended prison officer was a mistake; National leader John Key has called it "mind-blowing stupidity".
The suspended officer is Jim Morgan - a member of the New Zealand Parliamentary Rugby team, co-captained by O'Connor. He is also a Rimutaka Prison unit manager and one of 11 officers suspended earlier this year following allegations of corruption and poor management.
The issue is particularly difficult for the minister - Morgan's wife Marie is his senior private secretary in Parliament and the rugby team manager.
Prime Minister Helen Clark has refused to say what action will be taken. She said she found it "odd" a suspended employee would be on the tour. "It will be something I will be taking up with [O'Connor]."
It was unclear last night who had decided to include Morgan in the team.
A spokeswoman for O'Connor said it was not up to the minister, nor was membership of the team his responsibility. "But it was up to him to decide whether or not he went."
The spokeswoman said O'Connor had transferred ministerial responsibility for the investigation of employment matters relating to Morgan to associate minister Clayton Cosgrove in June, because of perceived conflicts of interests relating to Marie Morgan.
Cosgrove last night distanced himself from the issue. He said he had no knowledge the pair would be playing rugby together. Cosgrove said he had been briefed twice on the investigation by inquiry head Barry Matthews.
Key said allowing a suspended officer to travel with the parliamentary team was "mindblowingly stupid".
"It's either a decision that's incredibly dumb or frankly incompetent. Either way it hardly inspires confidence in someone who's amassed a rather long catalogue of failure in running his department.
"This is the same Government who only a few months ago didn't think they could handle potential conflicts of interest..."
The team, which this week won the World Cup for the Parliamentarians, includes MPs Chris Tremain, John Carter, Mark Blumsky and Colin King.