By AUDREY YOUNG political reporter

Education Minister Trevor Mallard has conveyed a third and written apology to Rosemary Bradford, wife of National MP Max Bradford, in a bid to put an end to threatened defamation proceedings.

The Government will also pay $2000 to her lawyers and $750 to his.

In a brief letter sent last night, he says:


"I understand that, through your counsel, you have sought an apology for remarks I made about you on 15 March.

"On 4 April I made a personal statement to the House of Representatives pursuant to standing order 343 [personal explanation].

"I am writing to express that apology to you personally and a copy of my statement to the House is attached.

"Please accept my apology."

The letter was sent to Mrs Bradford's lawyer late yesterday, though it is dated April 6.

Last night she had not yet seen it so it is not yet clear if the curt letter is the final word.

He was apologising for comments made in a tit-for-tat slanging match in Parliament after the Prime Minister's husband, Peter Davis, was subject to an Opposition attack over his research on National's health reforms.

His first apology was made in question time, but was mainly directed to Dr Mary English, the wife of National's deputy, Bill English.

His second apology was made at 9.55 pm last Wednesday. He acknowledged he had defamed Mrs Bradford in a reference to a real estate commission on a building lease, and apologised.

He said his comments had "caused serious damage to her reputation and integrity as a senior partner and director in a major international commercial real estate company."

Mrs Bradford was in bed at the time and taken by surprise. She wanted another apology and lawyers for the parties later agreed a written apology would do the job.

Asked if she would frame it, Mrs Bradford said she would leave it in her files for future reference. Mr Mallard said the National Party leader, Jenny Shipley, should also apologise.

He had absolute privilege for his statements in the House, but the incorrect briefing notes he was speaking from were later faxed to an IRN reporter and more widely circulated.

"I distributed one copy of it. At least 20 copies were distributed around by Jenny Shipley's office around the Press Gallery.

"Therefore I think it is important that Mrs Shipley also apologise to Mrs Bradford in a way similar to the way I have. I have no faith that she will."

Helen Clark yesterday acknowledged that Mr Mallard's comments about MPs' spouses were part of the muck-raking that had gone on this year.

"I would have thought the inference any sensible person had taken from recent weeks is that it's best kept away from."

Mr Mallard told the Herald last night he had learned a lesson from the incident "that when people start throwing stuff at your mates ... you've got to be very careful about being involved in counter-punching.

"I should take care about lowering myself to other people's levels."