Key rules Peters out of National's future

01:43, Jan 31 2009
UNDER PRESSURE: Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters is under pressure to explain his version of events following explosive evidence from billionaire Owen Glenn to Privileges Committee.

LATEST: National Party leader John Key has ruled out Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters having a role in any future National coalition, unless he can provide an explanation on the Owen Glenn saga.

Mr Key said this afternoon he would not accept Mr Peters holding a position in a future National Cabinet unless he could provide a "credible explanation" following evidence put before Parliament's Privileges Committee by Mr Glenn, which "appears inconsistent" with Mr Peters' earlier evidence.

Mr Key said he accepted that this would mean National had ruled itself out of Government if it needed NZ First's support after the election to form a Government and said it had been a decision he had not taken lightly.

"In politics you have to do what’s right," Mr Key said.

Prime Minister Helen Clark is backing Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters in response to a call by Mr Key for her to stand him down.

It emerged this morning that Mr Glenn told Parliament's Privileges Committee by letter that Mr Peters had personally solicited a $100,000 donation to help pay for his legal expenses relating to his Tauranga Electoral petition case at the end of 2005.

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Mr Peters has, till recently, said he knew nothing about a $100,000 donation from Mr Glenn. However Mr Glenn said in his letter that Mr Peters had had personally sought help from him at a meeting in Sydney.

"I agreed to help, in the belief this step would also assist the Labour Party in its relations with Mr Peters. I supported the Labour Party," Mr Glenn wrote in the letter released by the committee at Mr Glenn's request this morning.

Mr Key asked Miss Clark in Parliament whether she would be sacking or standing Mr Peters down as a minister following his clearly contradictory statements.

Miss Clark repeatedly told Mr Key she was awaiting the outcome of the deliberations of the Privileges Committee.

"There is clearly a conflict of evidence and I await the outcome of the Privileges Committee decision," Miss Clark said.

In his letter to the committee, Mr Glenn told the committee that it was Mr Peters who solicited the money.

"The payment was made by me to assist funding the legal costs incurred personally by Rt Hon Winston Peters MP concerning his election petition dispute, at his request," Mr Glenn's statement says.

"Mr Peters sought help from me for this purpose in a personal conversation, some time after I had first met him in Sydney."

Mr Glenn said he authorised the payment on or about December 20, 2005.

But in a submission to the privileges committee dated yesterday, Mr Peters denied he had requested the donation and said the "personal conversation" Mr Glenn referred to was actually with Mr Henry.

He said Mr Glenn's assertion he had personally requested money "does not coincide with my recollections" and he said he believed the "personal conversation" referred to by Mr Glenn was one he had held with Mr Henry.

He also said he believed he had seen Mr Glenn while the two lunched at the same table at the 2007 Karaka sales, rather than in 2006.

Mr Peters said he had not thanked him till after Mr Henry advised him of the payment on July 18.

Dail Jones, the NZ First representative on the Privileges Committee, said he had personally delivered Mr Peters letter of defence to the committee this morning.

Mr Jones, a former NZ First president, questioned the fact that the Glenn letter to the committee was unsigned.

The letter was released by committee chairman Simon Power after the meeting, which considered the statement in closed session.

"One can question whether Mr Glenn actually knows this letter has gone out. Have a look at the letter. You might be the only one to realise Mr Glenn has not signed it. No one has signed it. Anyone could have written that letter," Mr Jones said.

He said Mr Glenn had also contradicted his own evidence.

"Mr Glenn in his supposed letter said he did not make a contribution to NZ First. So I think there is a lack of credibility in Mr Glenn’s correspondence. He has contradicted himself," Mr Jones said.

Mr Jones said Mr Peters was very respectful of Parliamentary procedure and because of that he was limited in what he could say.

Committee chairman Simon Power made a brief statement after this morning's meeting saying Mr Glenn’s evidence "appears inconsistent" with the evidence given at the last meeting by Mr Peters and Mr Henry.

He said the committee would meet again to consider the matter on Thursday, next week.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said the public had a right to be reassured about the role of money in politics.

If Mr Glenn’s account was accurate, then Mr Peters position as foreign minister was untenable.

"I think the prime minister should be calling the foreign minister in right now and asking for some explanation."

Act leader Rodney Hide said Miss Clark should stand Mr Peters down from his foreign affairs portfolio.

"Helen Clark has to make an ethical stand, a stand of principal, and actually get him to stand down."

 

The Dominion Post