The UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, removed Zahawi from his cabinet position earlier today, following a report by Sunak’s ethics advisor claiming Zahawi was in breach of the Ministerial code.
The report was in reference to Zahawi’s £5 million payment to HM Revenue & Customs, Britain’s tax authority. It claimed Zahawi failed to register HMRC’s investigation into his tax affairs as a special interest when he was appointed chancellor in July 2022.
Journalists discovered Zahawi had paid almost £5 million as a settlement to HMRC over unpaid tax in 2022, although Zahawi claimed it was a careless mistake and not deliberate.
Sunak’s ethics advisor, Laurie Magnus, wrote: “[declaration of ministerial interests is]..a requirement that Ministers complete declarations of interests forms (which include questions about the status of their tax affairs.” Magnus concluded: “I consider that by failing to declare HMRC’s ongoing investigation before July 2022…Mr. Zahawi failed to meet the requirement…to declare any interests which might be thought to give rise to a conflict.”
Sunak explained to Zahawi in a letter that he was proud of his record in office: “Following the completion of the independent adviser’s investigation – the findings of which he has shared with us both – it is clear that there has been a serious breach of the ministerial code.
As a result, I have informed you of my decision to remove you from your position in HM government.”
Zahawi replied to the PM without much regret for his actions, nor a denial of the breach of conduct. He praised his achievements as a minister and took a swipe at the media complaining that: “In a week when a Member of Parliament was physically assaulted, I fail to see how one headline on this issue ‘The Noose Tightens’ reflects the legitimate scrutiny of public officials.”
Opposition MPs like Shadow Deputy Leader Angela Rayner, demanded further investigations be conducted into the Conservative Party leadership in their oversight of government officials.
Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Philipson attacked the PM for his lack of action over disgraced Ministers: “Rishi Sunak should have sacked Nadhim Zahawi a long time ago, just as he should have acted over Dominic Raab and Suella Braverman, but in his weakness he promoted them.”
Zahawi will continue to serve as a Conservative MP from the backbenches but has made no plans to return to a ministerial position anytime soon.
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