1 Apr 2009

Worth treated as minister on personal trip to India

6:37 am on 1 April 2009

Internal Affairs Minister Richard Worth has admitted he received official assistance while on a personal trip to India.

Dr Worth has been reprimanded by Prime Minister John Key for failing to mention that he was connected to a company that stood to gain from the visit.

He has since resigned as director and shareholder of New Zealand Aviation and as chairman of the India Trade Group.

Dr Worth used the trip earlier in March to promote aviation training in New Zealand.

On Tuesday, Dr Worth told Parliament that he paid for the trip, but admitted he received hospitality at five functions and was fast-tracked though airports.

He was also briefed by an immigration official at the New Zealand High Commission in Delhi.

The Labour Party has released four Indian newspaper clippings, all quoting Dr Worth as a government minister.

Mr Key says Dr Worth is involved in a third company related to India, which he resigned from on Tuesday.

Judgment not compromised - Worth

Despite the reprimand, Dr Worth says he feels he did exercise appropriate judgment at the time and is sure there was no conflict of interest.

He says he can see in hindsight that a problem can arise where a person is speaking in one capacity but represented as speaking in another.

On Monday, Mr Key said he would not have approved the trip if he had known Dr Worth had a connection to a company that stood to benefit from it.

"While I don't believe that Dr Worth deliberately sought to make a personal gain, nor do I believe that he sought to mislead me, I believe it was unwise of him to embark on a trip and to put himself in this position where the perception of such a conflict could arise."

Labour Party leader Phil Goff says new ministers are clearly briefed on conflicts of interest, and Dr Worth should have resigned his directorships at that time.

On Tuesday, Mr Key said he is confident Dr Worth can continue in his role as a minister.

Mr Key said he has had another discussion with Dr Worth in which he has set out his expectations. He says he made it clear that the issue is one of perception and that he does not believe Dr Worth acted for pecuniary gain.