PM confirms Todd Barclay told him about secret recording

NZN VIDEO

Prime Minister Bill English says he went to police over secret recording by Todd Barclay

Prime Minister Bill English says Clutha Southland MP Todd Barclay told him he had made secret recordings of his staff - directly contradicting Barclay's repeated assertions the recordings did not exist. 

In doing so, English has also confirmed he allowed Barclay to continue publicly denying allegations he recorded staff members, even after Barclay had privately admitted he had. 

English said the police investigation was the end of it, as far as he was concerned.  

Stacey Kirk/FAIRFAX NZ

Todd Barclay responds to comments over alleged recording of staff in his electorate office.

Asked if Todd Barclay had misled the media as late as Tuesday morning when he said he "refutes" all of the allegations, English said: "You'll have to ask him." It was not up to him to force Barclay to co-operate with police. 

READ MORE: 
Secret payment made to Barclay's former employee over recording 
Barclay maintains he 'did nothing wrong'

"He made the choice to, according as he's able to with the legal advice, not to deal with it. I can't override that as a political leader." 

CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ.

Prime minister Bill English answers questions on Todd Barclay.

English's comments marked a stunning shift from Tuesdayt morning, where he told media he could not recall who told him Barclay had allegedly secretly recorded a staff member in his office. 

"As a result of the questions this morning, I said that I had made a statement to police and I would go back and check it. I've gone back and checked that statement which was given in March or April last year," he said. 

"In that statement I said to the police that Todd Barclay had told me that he had recordings of his staff criticising him."

Todd Barclay needs to cooperate with police, says Labour leader Andrew Little.
NICOLE JOHNSTONE/FAIRFAX NZ

Todd Barclay needs to cooperate with police, says Labour leader Andrew Little.

The prime minister's office has released English's statement to police. In it he detailed his interactions with Barclay on the matter. Read the statement here.

"I had a conversation with him regarding Glenys Dickson leaving his office and he said to me that he had recordings of her criticising him," he told Detective Superintendent Peter Read, in April 2016.  

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Barclay has been dogged by the allegations since early last year, when staff in his electorate office began resigning en masse. Some alleged the first-term MP had been secretly recording them - it is illegal to intercept any communications that you are not party to.

An investigation by Newsroom.co.nz reported on Tuesday morning that Barclay's former electorate agent Glenys Dickson was paid hush money after learning of a dictaphone left running in the Gore office and then engaging an employment lawyer.

CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ.

Andrew Little reacts to revelations around MP Todd Barclay.

Newsroom also revealed part of the settlement came from former Prime Minister John Key's leader's budget, and texts obtained by Newsroom had suggested English knew of the recordings.

English, who held Barclay's Clutha-Southland seat for 18 years, maintained as late as Tuesday morning it was "still unclear what, if anything, happened".

Attempting to explain his brain-fade, English said his statement was made 12 months ago. 

"There was, as I said this morning, all sorts of things being said about different people," he said.

NEWSROOM

MP Todd Barclay insists he did nothing wrong in relation to the secret recording of an employee. For the full 30-minute video, visit Newsroom.co.nz

"The substance of my statement to the police as the he told me there were recordings of his staff. That's what I said to the police and bear in mind the police then picked that up and it's up to them about how they investigate it."

Police Assistant Commissioner (Investigations) Richard Chambers said the investigation took place under the supervision of a senior detective.

"Police can confirm that Mr English was spoken to as part of the investigation, and a statement was taken."

Chambers said there was insufficient evidence to seek search warrants, following Barclay's refusal to cooperate.

"The file was referred to the police legal section for review. After consideration of all relevant information and the Solicitor General's prosecution guidelines, police determined that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute.

"The investigation is now considered closed.  If any new information is bought to the attention of police then that information will be assessed by the investigating officers as to its relevance to this case," Chambers said.

EARLIER: PM CAN'T RECALL WHO SAID WHAT

English earlier said it was possible Barclay told him about the alleged recording, but he couldn't be sure.

He also didn't recall a conversation with Glenys Dickson, who told Newsroom English had called her at home to tell her Barclay had made the recording.

Barclay fronted media on Tuesday morning and "totally refutes" using a dictaphone to record her.

Asked about the settlement package, he said a package had probably happened, but this was normal.

"The employment relationship is between Parliamentary Services and the employee. She had been a longstanding staff member and it was quite a quick exit, so there would have been a package of some sort. 

"Employment disputes happen in all workplaces all the time, and I don't think there's anything out of the ordinary about an employment settlement taking place.

He said she had "possibly" broken a confidentiality agreement, but he wasn't sure.

"I certainly don't intend to break any confidentiality agreement myself, whether she has or not that's a matter for her."

His lawyers said he didn't have to speak to the police so he didn't.

Asked how much money Dickson was paid, English said, "I'm not hiding it from the taxpayer - it was a legal confidential agreement and I don't know what it was".

OPPOSITION REACTS

Embattled rookie MP Barclay may have a legal right not to co-operate with police investigating whether he made secret recordings of his staff. 

But as an elected official he has a moral duty, said Labour leader Andrew Little. 

English had to come clean about what he knew of the employment disputes going on in his former Clutha-Southland office, he said.

Through his lawyer Barclay refused to co-operate with police who were investigating and hoped he would hand the recordings over. Police had to drop the 10-month investigation through a lack of evidence.

Little said Barclay had serious questions to answer. 

It had looked like Barclay had "run away" from the investigation, by not co-operating. 

"And I think what is concerning is that senior members of the National Party in Parliament - including Bill English - seem to have been part of what looks like a cover up to protect him and keep the pressure off."

Little said the level of contact English had with people at the heart of the issue suggested he was intimate with the details. 

"So he's had a lot of contact with people at the heart of the whole issue. I would very, very surprised if he didn't know the amounts of money involved." 

Little stopped short of calling for Barclay's resignation. 

"I wouldn't go that far at the moment.

"I think Todd is a young MP, a new MP - without being patronising about it, there are always questions of maturity when you're an MP at that sort of age and getting on with well-established staff who are there," Little said. 

"What's happened has happened, but if there's a question about whether he has acted within the law in recording somebody, then I think he needs to step up and ask questions about that and answer for himself.

Asked whether Barclay should resign, senior South Island MP Gerry Brownlee said "it's not a decision for me and I'm not familiar with the details".

NZ First leader Winston Peters said serious questions needed to be answered about why a "backbench MP" had access to the Prime Minister's leader's budget.

"It's a straight misuse of money and somebody's not being accountable. I find it hard to believe that part of the story is true but it's there and I'm reading it.

"It's an appalling misuse of taxpayers' money," Peters said.

There were also questions around why the police dropped the case and how Barclay was still "standing as an MP".

"The prime minister has to explain what he said. He'll have a hell of a job just laughing it away like he's been doing lately on this and acting like a country yokel.

"This won't wash, it's a serious issue to do with the law and whether a crime or offence was committed and what he knew about it. He might have an explanation, but I can't imagine what it is at this point in time."

WHO KNEW WHAT?

Early last year, Barclay remained tight-lipped about the large number of resignations in his office. He had initially told media he would co-operate with police, but when they attempted to contact him, Barclay refused to answer his phone. 

Through a lawyer, he told police he would not be making a statement for their investigations.

An Official Information Act request obtained by NZME in March, this year, showed police were hopeful he would hand over the alleged recordings, but without them their investigation ground to a halt. 

In November he had not spoken to police about the alleged complaint. Parliamentary Services was responsible for staffing so it was "not appropriate for them, or me, to be talking about employment matters".

English had also refused to comment on Barclay's dilemma, his refusal to cooperate with police, or whether English himself had any involvement. In March he told NZME: "It was an employment dispute, the police have had a look at it, he's been re-selected, and I think that's pretty much the end of it.

"I was the local MP, I knew the two people pretty well, but I'm not going to comment any further than that."

An unredacted copy of the police file obtained by Newsroom includes a text message from English to an official in his former Clutha-Southland electorate, seemingly confirming that Barclay had been recording Dickson.

Barclay has denied speaking to English about the saga. But according to Dickson's police statement, English phoned her at home to tell her Barclay had admitted to making the recordings when the pair spoke.

* Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Glenys Dickson now worked for NZ First.

* Comments on this article have been closed.

 - Stuff

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