Politics

Barclay sorry for ‘misleading’ comments

View the Prime Minister's initial reaction in the video player above

National MP Todd Barclay has admitted for the first time he told Bill English about recording staff in his office.

However, Barclay has not resigned, saying there was “fault on both sides” in his fallout with former electorate agent Glenys Dickson.

A Newsroom investigation which uncovered new details about Barclay - including a text message from English in which he said Dickson had been recorded - has cast fresh doubt on the party’s support for him and a police decision to drop an investigation due to insufficient evidence.

Speaking to media about Newsroom’s investigation on Tuesday morning, he said there was “nothing new” in the allegations and denied speaking to English and recording Dickson.

However, later that afternoon English released a statement he gave to police, in which he said Barclay told him he had recordings of Dickson criticising him - directly contradicting the Clutha-Southland MP.

Flanked by senior whip Jami-Lee Ross and fellow Southland MP Sarah Dowie, Barclay read from a prepared statement to “clarify and correct my comments to the media earlier today”.

“I’ve read Mr English's statement to the police and I accept it. The period in question was a very stressful one and as I was in the midst of a difficult employment dispute.

“Given Mr English was my predecessor as the MP for Clutha-Southland, I no doubt spoke to him as the dispute escalated.”

Barclay said there was fault on both sides, “like any breakdown in a relationship”.

“Looking back, I could have handled the situation differently and I regret that.”

He said he “shouldn’t have been as specific in my comments to the media” on Tuesday, but would not comment further citing legal reasons and the confidential resolution of the employment dispute.

“As I’ve said in the past this has been a steep learning curve for me and I still have a lot to learn.

“I’m sorry if any of the answers I gave this morning were misleading in any way.”

Barclay left without taking questions from media.

Bill English admits he knew about recordings

Prime Minister Bill English has admitted Barclay confessed to him about making secret recordings of his staff - contradicting Barclay’s denial from only hours ago.

English has defended his own actions after being told of the recordings, saying he spoke to police and it was up to them to investigate.

A Newsroom investigation into Barclay has revealed fresh concerns about the Clutha-Southland MP’s conduct, along with a text from English to an electorate official speaking about Barclay’s actions.

Speaking to media on Tuesday morning, English initially said he couldn’t recall who had told him about the recording.

But on his way into Question Time in the afternoon, the Prime Minister said he had gone back and checked the statement he gave to police.

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

English defended himself against accusations he should have done more, saying: “I’ve made a statement to police, the police investigated it, the investigation was completed and as far as I was concerned those issues have been dealt with.”

He said Barclay’s decision not to speak to police was a matter for the MP.

“He made the choice as he’s able to relating with the legal advice not to deal with it and I can’t override that.”

Asked whether Barclay’s denial of any recordings earlier in the day meant he was a liar, English responded: “Well that’s a matter for him to account for his statements.

“I’m telling you what my statement was and the statement I made was to the police who then had the opportunity to investigate all aspects of the allegations.”

After addressing media, English’s staff distributed copies of his police statement.

In that, he confirmed to Detective Superintendent Peter Read that Barclay had told him directly that he had recorded staff:

PR: I am just showing you, this is a printout of copies of the text conversation that’s taken place. If I could just get you to have a look at that and confirm that, that’s, to your(sic) best of your recollection, the text messaging conversations that you had with Mr Davie?”

BE: That looks like it.

PR: There are several pages, the light coloured is your response.

BE: Yet that looks like, it.

PR: And in this text conversation you mention that Mr Barclay has used a Dictaphone to record conversations in his electorate office. How did you, you must have had a conversation with Mr Barclay, how did you become aware of this, the fact that he was recording phone calls in his office?

BE: 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.

English goes on to say the conversation likely happened somewhere in Parliament, face to face, but he couldn’t recall if he had raised the issue or Barclay had.

English said Barclay told him he had used a dictaphone to record Glenys Dickson.

Dickson responded to English's statement, telling Newsroom Barclay had put the Prime Minister in a "very difficult position". 

"I’ve always said Bill English is a man of integrity and the truth would prevail," she said.

It is now time for Todd Barclay to face the truth and tell the truth.

“I feel very disappointed that the whole situation is being aired in public which is a result of the party not dealing with it from the outset.”

“It had been upsetting that this issue has continuously been referred to as an employment dispute, this is an issue of an unlawful act being performed by an MP and for whatever reason [Barclay] has been protected by the party.

“It is now time for Todd Barclay to face the truth and tell the truth.”

Speaking to media before National’s caucus meeting, English initially said he could not remember who had first told him about the allegations of Barclay recording Dickson.

“I can’t recall exactly. I know the texts are there that show where I was relaying to the electorate chairman at the time what I’d heard, because I was asked what I’d heard, so I can’t tell you where it’s come from…

“It wasn’t like it was a court affidavit or anything - it was a number of conversations among people with whom I’d worked for a long time, knew well and so I can’t recall exactly what was said by whom, when.”

Asked whether it could have been Barclay who told him, English responded: “It’s possible.”

It was still unclear “just what might or might not have happened” in terms of any recording, English said - not ruling out that it had occurred.

While Dickson said in her police statement that English had phoned her to discuss Barclay’s confession to him, the Prime Minister said he could not recall speaking to her.

He confirmed he had spoken to police as part of their investigation, but said he would not waive his privacy rights and make his statement public.

English said earlier that the fallout in Clutha-Southland was disappointing, with “deep-seated personal differences” dividing those in his former electorate, but it was time to move on.

“They’ve done a good job of political representation as MPs or electorate staff or volunteers and at the time there was a kind of pressurised discussion in a set of circumstances that were already difficult, and I think you can see here these are people who’ve fallen out, it’s a shame, it’s disappointing.

“They’ve had an employment dispute, that’s been resolved, the police investigation, that’s been resolved, a re-selection of the candidate, that’s all been resolved and I would like to see the personalities resolved.”

Asked why the leader’s fund had been used to pay part of Dickson’s settlement, as revealed by Newsroom, English said he had been advised it “followed the normal course of employment disputes” with staff employed by the Parliamentary Service.

“Parliamentary Services are responsible for the employment disputes and it’s not a matter for the MP, he’s not the employer.”

Neither he nor former Prime Minister John Key had been involved in the settlement, and he was unaware of how much had been paid out.

Asked whether he had confidence in Barclay, he said: “Yes I do - he’s been re-selected by the National Party.”

Barclay, however, was much clearer on whether he had spoken to English about the subject, declaring he had not.

In a surprising move, Barclay decided to front media and said there was “nothing new” in the fresh story.

“I’ve seen the allegations that have been made by Mrs Dickson and the police have investigated quite thoroughly, obviously, I’ve gone through quite a robust local, transparent process too which was my re-selection which I won quite convincingly so my people and supporters down here clearly see it for what it is.”

He continued to deny he had made a recording, stating he had represented the situation honestly.

He also refuted allegations he had bullied staff and did not know about the leader’s fund being used to settle the dispute.

“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 after someone leaving a job.”

When asked why he had refused to talk to police, Barclay said he had sought legal advice and had been advised he did not need to.

Todd Barclay chose to front the media, and said there was nothing new in Newsroom's story. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

When questioned at the airport on Monday night by Newsroom, Barclay said he had been "open" with police about the issue.

He said Dickson had possibly broken the confidentiality agreement in talking to media, but he had no intention of doing so and he hoped he retained the confidence of English.

“I certainly hope so, I’ve certainly got confidence in my electorate, I’ve been reselected again quite convincingly in the last year and bearing in mind all of these issues that are out there at the moment were out there during reselection as well.

Labour also came out swinging on the issue, with leader Andrew Little saying it appeared the police investigation had been stonewalled and obstructed.

English needed to front up and explain what happened.

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

"And if there is an allegation of an arguably unlawful recording then I would expect an MP facing that allegation to front up, not to run away from it in the way that I think it looks like Todd Barclay has."

* Additional reporting by Sam Sachdeva 

Watch: The full investigation story on Newsroom
Watch: Todd Barclay responds to Newsroom's questions
Read: The timeline of events leading to Newsroom's investigation

Read: Barclay payout raises questions over leader's fund

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