I'm not a lawyer' - Bill English on Barclay scandal

Prime Minister Bill English says he handled the Todd Barclay scandal about as well as he could, considering he's not a lawyer.

It's been a tough week for the National Party, with Mr Barclay announcing he won't stand for re-election in Mr English's old electorate of Clutha-Southland after more details of his alleged secret recording of electorate office staff came to light.

Specifically, that Mr English was told by Mr Barclay himself as early as February 2016 that recordings were made.

Mr English earlier this week first said he couldn't recall how he found out about the recordings, then later admitted Mr Barclay had told him.

"I said what I thought. I went and looked at the police statement and I clarified that matter as soon as I could," Mr English told The Nation on Saturday.

The Prime Minister also claimed he went to police to tell them what he knew - but later admitted waiting for police to come to him.

"I didn't mean to give the impression I had initiated it. But the police did already have the texts which I had sent… to the electorate chairman letting him know what I knew. Then the police came and asked me, and the interview confirmed the content of the texts."

Mr English said he could have explained his role in the settling of the employment dispute better, "but that's 20/20 hindsight".

"At the time there was a confidentiality agreement around the settlement of an employment dispute and a police investigation," he told Newshub political editor Patrick Gower.

On Friday NZME reported Mr English saying it hadn't "occurred to anybody that there may be some potential offence".

"I'm not a lawyer, and when the matter did arise it was fairly quickly in the hands of the police. In New Zealand… the police investigate, they then lay charges, then it's up to a court to decide if an act was criminal."

Despite telling police Mr Barclay himself admitted making the recordings, Mr English said there was still no real evidence he did.

"It's never been established that the alleged incident around the recording actually occurred."

'I wasn't trying to hide anything'

Gower asked Mr English why he didn't mention the fact he'd given a statement to the police when asked about what he knew in March this year. Mr English denied he was lying by omission.

"I wasn't trying to hide anything. I was just ensuring that the process, the very thorough processes… were respected. Because until or unless people have charges laid against them… they're innocent of the allegations."

He also rejected suggestions he was trying to cover up the scandal.

"This idea that somehow giving information to the police is a cover-up is ridiculous… I don't know what actions they took, I don't know what evidence they saw, I don't know who they spoke to."

Asked if anyone could trust him again after a week of shifting stories, Mr English said that would be up to voters.

"Other people will make a decision about that. I'm satisfied that in a difficult situation… that this has been handled about as well as it could. It's sad - no one comes out of this better than before the events occurred. It's a shame, a real shame."

And besides, says Mr English, "the public aren't that interested in our internal employment disputes".

An online poll Newshub conducted on Wednesday, though non-scientific, suggests more than 60 percent are.

Mr English praised Mr Barclay's "brave" decision to not stand for re-election, so the National Party can move on.

"Our job is to resolve what is actually messy personnel issues within our party, and do that effectively so we can get on with governing. I'm not a lawyer."

Newshub.

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