Cabinet minister David Benson-Pope is continuing to deny he did anything wrong in the "shower girls" case but his former principal says his actions were "just not appropriate".

Former Bayfield High School head Bruce Leadbetter last night reaffirmed that he had told Mr Benson-Pope about a complaint over him entering the female bathroom, where two girls were showering, and a girls dormitory, where girls were dressing, at a school camp in 1997.

Mr Benson-Pope was then in charge of outdoor education at the school.

"I do not specifically remember his reaction, but I did get the impression there was an acceptance, and a desire to work through [the issue]," Mr Leadbetter told the Otago Daily Times.

Earlier, in a carefully worded personal statement, Mr Benson-Pope, the Minister for Social Development, apologised for causing his former students any "upset" but said he was "convinced my conduct as a teacher was not inappropriate".

The statement, circulated yesterday after National blocked Mr Benson-Pope from reading it in the House, does little to clarify the situation.

And the issue was not made any clearer as the Prime Minister and other ministers put up smokescreens to cloud the central issue of whether Mr Benson-Pope misled Parliament and the public last year when he said he was not aware of any complaints ever being made against him in all his years of teaching.

Despite continued calls from the Opposition for Mr Benson-Pope to be sacked, Helen Clark continued to stand by him. The PM said the minister had answered "to the best of his recollection" and had never been shown the letter from parents complaining about him.

And Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen disputed whether the letter could be seen as a "formal" complaint, since the board of trustees appeared not to have received it.

Mr Benson-Pope also tried to distance himself from the allegations, saying he had "no recollection" of ever seeing a letter of complaint, but said he discussed "issues around camp policies and procedures" at Bayfield High, where he taught for 24 years.

But the statement is silent on whether Mr Leadbetter told him about the complaint.

However, Mr Leadbetter said he raised the actual complaint, not just "policy issues", with Mr Benson-Pope and added there was no possibility he was confused about what happened.

Mr Leadbetter told the Otago Daily Times he could not remember showing Mr Benson-Pope the letter but "to me, the issue was not the letter or who sent it, but the matter of the complaint".

Mr Leadbetter said entering the girls' bathroom was "just not appropriate".

He also was concerned it put male staff at risk of allegations of misconduct.

The Herald sought clarification over aspects of Mr Benson-Pope's explanation and asked for an interview with the minister. The request was refused.

In the personal explanation, Mr Benson-Pope says he "remains convinced" that his conduct as a teacher was not inappropriate.

"I do accept, however, that the concerns of some former students were genuinely held and, to them, I offer an apology for any upset."

The personal explanation appears to contradict Mr Benson-Pope's response on Sunday when he called the claims "a nonsense".

In Parliament, National Party leader Don Brash asked how Mr Benson-Pope could have forgotten "something as serious and as grave for a professional teacher as that he had walked into dormitories of 14-year-old girls when they were changing, and into bathrooms of 14-year-old girls when they were showering?"

Helen Clark replied: "I believe the minister to be an honest man who answered the questions to the best of his recollection. I am further satisfied that he behaved in accordance with school policy at the time."

Mr Benson-Pope originally sought leave of the House yesterday to make the personal explanation, but National objected.

National's welfare spokeswoman, Judith Collins, said if Mr Benson-Pope had given a personal explanation, her party would not have been able to question him further on the issue.

When the Herald asked Mr Benson-Pope's office for a copy of the personal explanation, the request was declined.

The Prime Minister's office released it.