Jan Tinetti's delay correcting 'inaccurate statement' referred to powerful Parliament committee, question of 'contempt'

Parliament's powerful Privileges Committee will consider whether the time it took for Education Minister Jan Tinetti to correct an inaccurate statement in the House amounts to contempt.

On February 22, Tinetti was asked during Question Time to categorically state she played no part in the delay of the release of school attendance information. She said she already had and it was a decision for the Ministry of Education for when to release the data.

But Newshub revealed this month that Tinetti's office instructed officials to delay the release of the information so it could be timed with a truancy announcement by the Government. The minister told Newshub she wasn't aware at the time that her office was holding up the data.

Speaker Adrian Rurawhe on Tuesday said Tinetti received a letter from him on May 1 telling her the answer needed to be correct, and she did so the next day.

However, that correction came long after Tinetti learnt her office was involved. She found that out after Question Time on February 22.

She claims she didn't know her answer needed to be correct until the Speaker's letter, but Rurawhe said it should have been done as soon as possible. 

"It is an important principle that the House can trust the accuracy of ministerial replies to parliamentary questions," the Speaker said.

"While mistakes are sometimes made, which can result in the House receiving an answer containing a misleading statement, it is vitally important that as soon as this is discovered, the minister returns to the House to correct the answer at the earliest opportunity."

He said it was for the Privileges Committee to determine whether the "delay in correcting an inaccurate statement in this instance amounts to contempt". 

"I rule that a question of privilege does arrive from the time taken to correct a misleading statement to the House. The question therefore stands referred to the Privileges Committee."

ACT leader David Seymour called it a "serious matter". 

"I don't believe this has happened in the time I have been in Parliament, that is what a serious thing it is," he said.

National MP Judith Collins said it was "enormous", believing it to be the first time in more than a decade.

"I was quite shocked, but I was also shocked by her answers in the House that day, which were clearly wrong. I think too it's probably an indication of what's not going right over at the Beehive for the Prime Minister's Office not to have been over that from day one because everyone knew that wasn't right what she was saying in the House."

The Privileges Committee "considers and reports on any matters that are referred to it by the House as questions of privilege relating to or concerning the privileges of the House or its members".

As Newshub revealed earlier this month, emails obtained under the Official Information Act show that on December 14 the attendance data was ready but the minister delayed the release saying she wanted more information.

On February 14, Tinetti's office told officials the plan is to release the data after her upcoming truancy announcement

A week later the ministry again asked when it will be released and her office again replied it would be after the announcement.