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Starmer brands PM ‘hopelessly weak’ for failure to sack Zahawi over tax affairs


Sunak has come under fire from other MPs after failing to sack the Tory party chairman (Picture: Reuters/Getty)

Sunak has come under fire from other MPs after failing to sack the Tory party chairman (Picture: Reuters/Getty)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has come under fresh pressure in Parliament after resisting to fire Nadhim Zahawi.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called the PM ‘hopelessly weak’ after failing to fire the Chairman of the Conservative Party.

Mr Sunak came under pressure over Mr Zahawi’s multi-million pound settlement at Prime Minister’s Questions today.

The Prime Minister ordered his ethics adviser to investigate whether Mr Zahawi broke ministerial rules over the estimated £4.8 million bill he settled with HMRC while chancellor.

Mr Sunak admitted there are ‘questions that need answering’ as the inquiry was launched but it was unclear what he knew when appointing Mr Zahawi to the Cabinet-attending role.

Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life Lord Evans criticised the legal threats Mr Zahawi made as he tried to prevent stories about his tax affairs emerging.

As they worked to uncover the situation, The Independent website said he personally threatened ‘legal action’ and tax lawyer Dan Neidle was contacted by ‘expensive’ libel lawyers.

Lord Evans suggested ‘trying to close down a legitimate public debate’ would not live up to the Nolan principles on public life that must be upheld under the ministerial code.

Mr Sunak speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions today (Picture: BBC)

Zahawi is being investigated over the estimated £4.8 million bill he settled with HMRC while chancellor (Picture: AFP)

The PM has come under fire after backing Zahawi following his tax affairs claims (Picture: Scott Heppell – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

‘Accountability, openness are things which the Government says that it wants to be characterising its own behaviour, so that I think speaks for itself,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

‘The sort of attempts, apparent legal attempts to suppress this story, I don’t think that does live up to the sort of standards that the public would rightly expect.’

Senior Conservative MP Caroline Nokes has called on him to ‘stand aside until this matter is all cleared up’ but Mr Sunak has so far stood by Mr Zahawi.

The Prime Minister argued it is ‘longstanding practice’ for ministers to remain in their roles while under investigation.

Just last Wednesday, Mr Sunak told PMQs that Mr Zahawi had ‘already addressed this matter in full’.

The Prime Minister’s press secretary said Mr Sunak ‘takes Nadhim Zahawi at his word’.

But Mr Sunak bowed to pressure to order the investigation by ministerial interests adviser Sir Laurie Magnus after the Guardian revealed Mr Zahawi paid a penalty as part of the dispute.

Downing Street subsequently suggested Mr Sunak did not know last week that Mr Zahawi had paid the reportedly 30% penalty to HMRC.

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Source:: Metro

      

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