12 Mar 2014

PM continues to defend Collins

11:46 am on 12 March 2014

The Prime Minister is continuing to defend Justice Minister Judith Collins against an allegation she breached Cabinet rules by visiting food exporter Oravida in Shanghai while on an official taxpayer-funded visit to China.

Judith Collins.

Judith Collins. Photo: NATIONAL PARTY

John Key has told Parliament the Cabinet Office advised him that the visit last year was fine, because the minister did not endorse the company or its products.

Ms Collins has been caught up in the controversy because her husband is a director of the company. After her visit, Oravida put up on its website a message saying she was full of praise for its milk.

In Parliament on Tuesday, Mr Key rejected suggestions from New Zealand First leader Winston Peters that Ms Collins had done anything wrong.

"It's quite within the rules for a minister to be involved in the promotion of a company, but not the endorsement of a company. For an endorsement to take place, a minister would actually have to say the words themselves, produce those words, put out a statement or a speech."

However, the Cabinet manual says ministers have to make it clear to companies they visit that no photos or publicity should be used that could be perceived as an endorsement of their products.