New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has ramped up criticism of Prime Minister Bill English over the Todd Barclay affair - saying English should resign.
"He's got to go, Mr English. He's got to stand down, just like Barclay. He misled the media, he misled the House in every respect he is in serious breach of his responsibilities and duties," Peters said to media before entering question time that saw further questions about English's actions.
Asked if English had lied, Peters said there was no other possible conclusion. Despite calling for English's resignation, Peters did not rule out going into Coalition with National after the September 23 election.
He said he had laid two privileges complaints against English, claiming he misled Parliament about whether he knew about the allegations against Barclay. In question time, Peters challenged English to release his phone records to prove he hadn't been involved in the dispute than already disclosed.
Barclay confirmed yesterday that he wouldn't seek re-election as Clutha-Southland MP in September, saying it was in the best interests of the Government and National Party.
The focus is now firmly on the police investigation, and English's own actions after Barclay confided he left a dictaphone running in his electorate office and had recordings of former staff member Glenys Dickson.
Before Barclay became MP, Dickson had worked for English, who held the Clutha-Southland seat for 18 years before becoming a list MP.
Amidst rumours of secret recordings, former electorate chairman Stuart Davie last year texted English asking about the claims. English's February 21 response read: "He left a dictaphone running that picked up all conversations in the office. Just the office end of phone conversations. The settlement was larger than usual because of the privacy breach."
In a subsequent police interview, English confirmed the text, and said Barclay had told him he had recordings of Dickson criticising him, after he left a dictaphone on.
English's texts and statement were entirely redacted by police when they released documents to the Herald under the Official Information Act in March.
After the text was published on Tuesday by the Newsroom website, English said he couldn't recall who told him the recordings existed, but less than four hours later confirmed it was Barclay and released his police statement.
Speaking to media in Auckland today, English again rubbished cover-up claims by the Opposition, and said he had acted appropriately by informing Davie and making his statement to police. He confirmed he did so after being contacted by both parties.
Barclay's short statement on Tuesday night was the first time he confirmed he had said recordings were made. However, today English said delegates who re-selected Barclay in December were "in full knowledge of the circumstances".
When Barclay told him of the recordings English said he had told him "it wasn't acceptable behaviour in the sense that it led to an employment dispute".
It is illegal to intentionally intercept private communications you are not a party to. English said when the police investigation started it raised issues about possible offences "which I don't think anyone had occurred to anybody that there may be some potential offence".
Asked if it occurred to him to speak to police before being contacted, English said once there was an investigation established the possibility of an offence became clearer.
"But earlier on, for those who weren't involved it was hard to know what exactly happened. There was no implication of behaviour that could be an offence.
"But nevertheless, whatever was part of the employment dispute, there was a police complaint [and] the information I had I made available to police."
English, who spoke after a visit to Higher Ground drug rehabilitation facility in Te Atatu, said he didn't think the Barclay controversy was damaging to National.
"We deal competently with these sorts of issues even if they are difficult and even if they are personal, even if we are personally connected with them.
"I have to say, when I talked to the addicts today no one asked me about Todd Barclay."