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Prime Minister supports National on Benson-Pope

Hon. Bill English MP National Party Education Spokesman

02 March 2006

Prime Minister supports National on Benson-Pope

National Party Education spokesman Bill English says the Prime Minister today appeared to confirm that David Benson-Pope has misled Parliament.

Answering on Helen Clark's behalf in Parliament today, Michael Cullen has confirmed that the Prime Minister now accepts complaints were indeed lodged against Mr Benson-Pope.

"That completely contradicts the Social Development Minister's denials," says Mr English.

In Parliament during May, Mr Benson Pope said 'I have not been guilty of, or involved in, any inappropriate behaviour in my 24 years as a secondary school teacher. Nor am I aware of any complaint of any kind'.

Mr English says it's now clear Mr Benson-Pope has misled the House and has misled the public of New Zealand.

"The Bayfield High principal, two students and a parent have confirmed complaints were laid over the allegations of impropriety at a school camp.

"Mr Benson-Pope has subsequently apologised to those students and confirmed he was taken to task by the school principal at the time.

"Just today, a former teacher has confirmed she was given an apology by Mr Benson-Pope after formal mediation and a formal complaint on claims of harassment and bullying.

"The PPTA has confirmed the complaint occurred. Yet earlier today Steve Maharey attempted to maintain the absurd argument that only formal complaints count. The Prime Minister is now at odds with that view.

"It is absolute nonsense for Labour to claim today that Mr Benson-Pope was not the subject of formal complaints. He was, and the Prime Minister now agrees.

"It is an absolute nonsense for Labour to argue that the phrase 'any complaint of any kind' is not crystal clear.

"Mr Benson-Pope should apologise and resign. He has misled the public, he has misled Parliament and today the Prime Minister appears to accept that. He must go," says Mr English.

ENDS

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