Paula Bennett in feisty exchange with PM over Kelvin Davis’ charter schools ‘conflict of interest’, before Winston leaps to her defence

Question time started with a bang in Parliament today as Paula Bennett grilled Jacinda Ardern over what she perceived to be a "conflict of interest" between Kelvin Davis and charter schools in his electorate, with Winston Peters also jumping into the fray.

The government's Bill to abolish the charter school model and transition the existing ones into schools of "special character" has been widely debated in Parliament since its introduction.

Ms Bennett was in a combative mood as she laid out her case against Mr Davis when it came to his dealings with charter schools that has come to light over the last week.

She began by quoting a section of the Cabinet Manual which she suggested the Associate Education Minister had ignored by talking to charter schools in his electorate while the new Bill is being implemented.

"It states Ministers should avoid situations in which they or those close to them gain remuneration or other advantage from information acquired only be reason of their office.

"Why then has she allowed her Associate Minister of Education to meet with partnership schools in their electorate?" she asked the Prime Minister.

Ms Ardern was quick to jump to Mr Davis' defence in the matter.

"That is an accusation that I would defend my Minister against, he has no direct responsibility for charter schools.

"He is not involved in the negotiations and the documents being asked about here are public," she said, drawing a loud response from members of the National Party.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters then jumped up to defend her and Mr Davis against the accusations.

"Can the Prime Minister assure the country she takes these questions of conflict of interest seriously seeing as their origins come from a party that's conflicted onshore, offshore in the boardroom and outside it," Mr Peters said, getting laughs from his side of the House.