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Compromised Minister cannot stay

Judith Collins MP National Party Welfare Spokeswoman

02 March 2006

Compromised Minister cannot stay

National Party Welfare spokeswoman Judith Collins says David Benson-Pope has been badly compromised and his honesty will always be open to question.

"The Social Development Minister has changed his story so many times it's hard to keep count.

"He has repeatedly refused to stand by statements that the allegations made against him were 'ridiculous', 'nonsense' and 'refuted'.

"Instead we've been subjected to a stream of weasel words about acting within school policy and not seeing a 'letter' of complaint, despite having been spoken to about it.

"Mr Benson-Pope's bungled handling of these matters has divided the Labour Party. Those Ministers who've lost their jobs for less will be justifiably angry.

"Just today a former colleague of Mr Benson Pope has explained how she won a personal apology after complaining about being harassed and bullied by him. How could he 'not be aware' of this complaint?

"Last night a former student complained she was slapped by Mr Benson-Pope, an action that was in breach of school policy and the law.

"The fact that the Minister is not prepared to say whether he entered the girls' changing or dorm rooms after school policy changed in 1997 also speaks volumes."

The Press newspaper said today: 'Benson-Pope's evasions and obfuscations have destroyed his credibility and his capacity to function and be taken seriously as a member of Labour's Cabinet'.

"And that is the point. The longer Helen Clark tolerates this new low standard, and backs her Minister ahead of genuine complainants, the more her own judgment will be called into question.

"The Prime Minister could have avoided this whole affair had she chosen to act when police found a prima facie case against this Minister. Instead she left him open to criticism by putting him in charge of a sensitive portfolio.

"Neither Helen Clark nor her blundering Minister have escaped with their reputations intact. Mr Benson Pope should do the right thing and resign," says Ms Collins.

ENDS

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