Labour leader Andrew Little says Prime Minister John Key allowed former MP Mike Sabin to chair the Law and Order Select Committee at least once after Mr Key found out he was being investigated, showing a "cavalier attitude" to Parliament.

Mr Key has said the first he knew Mr Sabin was facing personal issues that resulted in his resignation was on December 1. Mr Little said Mr Sabin had chaired the meeting of the Law and Order Select Committee on December 3, two days after Mr Key was told.

"That was a severe conflict of interest. It shows a cavalier attitude by the Government towards Parliamentary oversight of the Police. We need to know that the institutions of Parliament, select committees and the way they operate are done in a way that maintains public confidence in them. You can't have a committee of Parliament that provides oversight for the Police being chaired by someone under Police investigation."

Mr Little said he believed Mr Key knew more than he was admitting to. Police Minister Michael Woodhouse has repeatedly refused to say whether he or his predecessor, Anne Tolley, were briefed under the 'no surprises' policy. On Waitangi Day, Police
Commissioner Mike Bush also refused to confirm whether he had advised ministers, but said police "have not dropped the ball."

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Mr Little said that was code for confirming they had briefed ministers and he believed at least some ministers had known much earlier than Mr Key has claimed his office was told in late November.

The first media reports Mr Sabin was being investigated by police were later in December and TVNZ has reported police first spoke to Mr Sabin in early August last year.