UK

Rishi Sunak told ‘failure to sack Nadhim Zahawi shows how weak he is’ at PMQs

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ishi Sunak faced a barrage of questions over Nadhim Zahawi’s tax dispute from Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer during Prime Minister’s Questions.

The Labour leader told the Prime Minister his failure to sack Mr Zahawi shows “how hopelessly weak he is” and accused the PM of overseeing chaos and being “overwhelmed at every turn”.

Mr Sunak has suggested it would have been “politically expedient” to sack the Conservative party chair but insisted that “due process” means the investigation by his ethics advisor into his tax affairs should be allowed to reach its conclusion.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that he had not been given the full picture about the Tory chairman’s financial matters when he told MPs last week that Mr Zahawi had given a “full” account.

But he insisted that when he entered No 10 and gave Mr Zahawi the job of Minister Without Portfolio “no issues were raised with me”.

David Gauke, the former Justice Secretary, earlier became the latest senior Conservative figure to call for Mr Zahawi to resign.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that if he was the Prime Minister he would be “very tempted” to encourage him to stand down.

On Tuesday night, the former Attorney general Dominic Grieve told Newsnight: “If I were Prime Minister I would call Nadhim Zahawi in and I would say to him please explain exactly what’s happened. Because it doesn’t need an investigation. You’ve got to tell me what it is.

“And unless Nadhim Zahawi can make out the case that in this matter there’s been some unfortunate mistake which leaves him entirely blameless, it seems to me that following proper practice he ought to be resigning.”

But a Tory source said of Mr Zahawi this morning: “He is not resigning.

Live updates

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SNP: Zahawi tax affair ‘matter of PM’s integrity and accountability’

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said the issue of Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs “is now a matter of the Prime Minister’s own integrity and accountability”.

He said: “May I ask the Prime Minister what advice would he have for individuals seeking to protect their personal finances? Should they seek out a future chair of the BBC to help secure an £800,000 loan?

“Should they set up a trust in Gibraltar and hope that HMRC simply don’t notice? Or should they do as others have done and simply apply for non-dom status?”

Rishi Sunak replied: “I’m proud of the record of this Government in supporting the most vulnerable in our society. Just this winter helping all families: £900 with their energy bills, raising the National Living Wage to record levels and ensuring that our pensioners get the support they need. That’s what this Government is doing to ensure financial security in this country.”

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Starmer: Sunak ‘hopelessly weak’ in not sacking Zahawi

Sir Keir accuses Rishi Sunak of being too weak to sack Nadhim Zahawi.

Sir Keir says: “His failure to sack him when the whole country can see what’s going on shows how hopelessly weak he is. A prime minister overseeing chaos, overwhelmed at every turn.

“He can’t say when ambulances will get to heart attack victims again. He can’t say when the prison system will keep streets safe again. He can’t even deal with tax avoiders in his own Cabinet. Is he starting to wonder if this job is just too big for him?”

Sunak responds: “The difference between him and me is that I stand by my values and principles even when it is difficult.

“When I disagreed fundamentally with the previous prime minister I resigned from the government.

“But for four long years he sat next to the member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) – when antisemitism ran rife, when his predecessor sided with our opponents.

“That’s what’s weak, Mr Speaker. He has no principles and just petty politics.”

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Sunak: Labour playing ‘political opportunism’ with Zahawi tax investigation

Sir Keir accuses the PM of dodging the question.

He says last week, the PM told MPs that Zahawi had addressed his tax affairs in full, but now says there are questions to be answered.

He asks: “What changed?”

Mr Sunak replies that more information had entered the public domain since last week, and that he believes in “proper due process”, which is why he appointed the ethics advisor to investigate.

He accuses the opposition of “simple political opportunism” and says: “Everyone can see through it”.

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Sunak: I can’t ‘prejudge’ investigation into Zahawi controversy

In apparent reference to the Nadhim Zahawi row, Sir Keir asks Mr Sunak: “Does the prime minister agree that any politican who seeks to avoid the taxes they owe in this country is not fit to be in charge of taxpayer money?”

Mr Zahawi is notable absent from PMQs.

The Prime Minister replies: “The issues in question occured before I was prime minister. With regards to the appointment of [Zahawi], the usual appointments process was followed. No issues were raised with me when he was appointed to his current role.

“And since I commented on this matter last week, more information has come forward. And that’s why I have asked the independent advisor to look into the matter.

“I obviously can’t prejudge the outcome of that.”

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Starmer asks if Government has blood on its hands over parole failings

Labour’s Sir Keir says there are “systemic issues” in parole services, which are a ministerial responsibility.

Mr Sunak replies that steps are being taken to implement new processes to recall offenders. He says this is already making a difference.

Sir Keir says across the country, parole services are failing. “It is yet another vital public service that is on its knees after thirteen years of a Tory government.”

He says he has spoken to Ms Aleenah’s family, who say the Government has “blood on their hands”.

Mr Sunak replies: “We do want to increase the safety of women and girls, we need tough sentencing. And that’s why this government passed the Police Crime and Sentencing Act which [Keir Starmer and Labour] opposed.”

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Keir Starmer presses PM over Zara Aleena case

Labour’s first question concerns the case of Zara Aleena, who was savagely attacked and murdered in east London. Her killer was allowed to roam the streets after probation failings, a shocking report found.

He asks: “Does the prime minister accept those findings?”

Mr Sunak replies: “This is a truly terrible crime … the failings were serious and unacceptable.”

He says serious steps are being taken to address those concerns.

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Pictured: Rishi Sunak leaves No10 for PMQs

Rishi Sunak leaves No10 to attend PMQs

/ AFP via Getty Images

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Sunak welcomes Germany’s decision to send tanks to Ukraine

Away from domestic politics, Rishi Sunak has welcomed Germany’s decision to send its coveted Leopard-2 tanks to Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has finally given the “green light” to supplying Ukraine with the tanks after weeks of hesitaion that saw growing impatience among the country’s allies.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymr Zelensky, had urged Germany to provide the tanks to unleash a “real punching fist of democracy” to force Russian troops out of Ukraine.

Mr Sunak said it was “the right decision by Nato Allies and friends to send main battle tanks to Ukraine. Alongside Challenger 2s, they will strengthen Ukraine’s defensive firepower.

“Together, we are accelerating our efforts to ensure Ukraine wins this war and secures a lasting peace.”

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Lib Dems call on Zahawi to stand down

The Liberal Democrats have issued a call for Zahawi to be sacked or suspended while the investigation into his tax affairs is ongoing.

Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “The Conservative party is stuck in an endless cycle of sleaze and chaos, while the country suffers from a cost of living and NHS crisis.

“What more will it take for Sunak to finally do the right thing and sack Zahawi, or at least suspend him for the duration of this investigation?”

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Pictured: Nadhim Zahawi at Tory party HQ

Tory Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi has been pictured at the Conservative Party headquarters in Westminster.

Press have been gathered outside his house from dawn as he faces mounting calls to quit.

Getty Images

Nadhim Zahawi leaving the Tory party HQ

/ Getty Images

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