HomeEUROPEUK: PM Sacks Ruling Party Chair Over Tax Controversy

UK: PM Sacks Ruling Party Chair Over Tax Controversy

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has sacked his ruling Conservative Party Chair Nadhim Zahawi following weeks of revelations about his tax affairs.

According to the BBC, the Prime Minister says it is “clear that there has been a serious breach of the Ministerial Code”.

Mr. Sunak reportedly ordered an investigation after it emerged Zahawi paid a penalty to His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) while he was Chancellor, over previously unpaid tax.

The investigation, led by Independent Ethics Adviser Sir Laurie Magnus, found that Zahawi’s conduct fell short of what was expected in government.

Specifically, the investigation found that Zahawi failed to declare as a conflict of interest an HMRC investigation into his taxes when he became Chancellor.

Zahawi also failed to declare that he paid a penalty to HMRC when he was appointed to Liz Truss and then Rishi Sunak’s cabinet, the investigation found.

In Zahawi’s letter responding to his sacking, he told Sunak to expect his “full support” from the back benches.

Opposition parties say that Sunak took too long to sack Zahawi, with the Labour party saying the government is “mired in sleaze.”

More reaction to Zahawi’s sacking now, this time from the Labour Party Chair Anneliese Dodds, who was effectively Zahawi’s opposite number until this morning.

The fact we had a Chancellor in charge of the HMRC at the same time as he was negotiating a tax settlement – which was the situation with Zahawi last summer – is “unfathomable”, she told journalists.

She accused Sunak of “propping up other ministers who’ve been… subject to very serious findings”, without giving specifics, although earlier in the same interview she mentioned Suella Braverman, who Sunak reinstated as Home Secretary six days after she broke ministerial rules.

Dodds and Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner have now written to the Prime Minister calling for “full transparency”, asking Sunak when he became aware of HMRC’s investigation into Zahawi’s tax affairs, and what due diligence was carried out before Zahawi was appointed party chair.

Earlier, Levelling up Secretary Michael Gove told Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg that it was important the facts were “investigated fully and properly” before Sunak acted and that the situation had required “cool forensic analysis”.

He added that his “understanding” was that there was “no information that was brought to the attention of the prime minister, either Rishi or indeed Liz Truss which would have led them to believe at the time it was inappropriate to have Nadhim on the team”.

Zahawi was in both Prime Minister’s cabinets (their top team of ministers).

A former Head of the Civil Service, Lord Kerslake, a crossbench peer in the House of Lords, who was speaking to the BBC News channel about how Nadhim Zahawi’s sacking fitted into the Conservative Party’s past year, said that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak “should’ve acted sooner”.

He said that the PM should be able to “rely on his ministers to be transparent and stick to the ministerial code”.

This was lost during the Boris Johnson years, he said – adding that Sunak was “struggling to draw a line under the Johnson era and say ‘I’m different'”.

Asked whether Zahawi’s sacking was a watershed moment, Lord Kerslake said it was positive that the PM had listened to his Ethics Adviser – and he contrasted this to when Johnson rejected the findings of a bullying inquiry into former Home Secretary Priti Johnson.

But, he added, the investigation into Deputy PM Dominic Raab’s behaviour is still ongoing.

Lord Kerslake suggested Raab may be better “taking the plunge now rather than waiting for a report” that could force his hand.

Raab has repeatedly denied allegations of bullying.

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