Former Cabinet minister David Benson-Pope told Helen Clark about his comments in the Madeleine Setchell affair only after the State Services Commission had informed the Prime Minister's Office about the remarks.
Mr Benson-Pope did not volunteer the information, Helen Clark confirmed yesterday.
The former Environment Minister told Ministry for the Environment chief executive Hugh Logan he would be less free and frank with new ministry appointment Ms Setchell in his office because she was the partner of National's chief press secretary. She was later sacked.
It is understood that at the pre-Cabinet meeting held in Helen Clark's office on Monday last week, Mr Benson-Pope briefed Helen Clark and his Cabinet colleagues on what he had said and assured them he had told them everything - but omitted the critical comments.
On Wednesday last week, National started asking questions in Parliament about rumoured comments Mr Benson-Pope had made.
The State Services Commission learned about them earlier last week from Mr Logan and informed Helen Clark's office about them on Wednesday, she confirmed at her post-Cabinet press conference.
She advised him to come clean, and he confirmed the statement in the House on Thursday.
Despite realising on Wednesday night that he had not told the full story, Helen Clark said yesterday she had not considered sacking him then.
"It was clear to me that his statement to me and to colleagues had not been full but I was not at that point aware that they were directly in contradiction to statements he had made to others on the public record."
She has not contacted him since effectively demanding his resignation on Friday morning.
The House is in recess this week and Helen Clark is visiting Dunedin this morning, where Mr Benson-Pope lives. She does not expect he will be accompanying her as is usually the custom with local MPs.
Despite the Labour electorate committee passing a motion of support in Mr Benson-Pope at the weekend, Labour insiders are tipping he will not seek reselection after he realises that most of his colleagues believe his situation is of his own making and, failing that, that he will be challenged for selection.
Helen Clark said she circulated yesterday at the Cabinet the relevant pages from the Cabinet Manual about relations between ministers and public servants.
"I think we have to see what happened as the exception rather than the rule and it is very important that it stays as the exception."
Asked if she thought there was a clear understanding as to what constituted political interference and what constituted legitimately stated opinion by a minister, she said: "My advice to people is always to err on the side of caution."
Advisers in ministers' offices had to be very clear about the boundaries too and should also read the Cabinet Manual.
Helen Clark said Mr Benson-Pope could not be criticised for feeling that he could not be free and frank in the presence of Ms Setchell.
"That is a very natural human reaction to the situation."
He should probably not be criticised for saying it to the chief executive. "But you can criticise for that not being in the account from the very beginning, from the department and from him and his office."