Nadhim Zahawi has been sacked as Conservative Party chairman by Rishi Sunak after an ethics inquiry into his tax handling revealed a “serious breach” of the ministerial code.
It comes after the Prime Minister ordered an investigation into Mr Zahawi by Sir Laurie Magnus, his independent adviser for ministerial interests, following reports that the Tory chairman had paid a fine as part of an estimated £4.8 million settlement dispute with HMRC.
In a letter to Mr. Zahawi, Mr. Sunak said that after the investigation, which completed its work after only a few days, “it is clear that there is a serious violation of the ministerial code”.
“Therefore I have informed you of my decision to dismiss you from your position in His Majesty’s Government.”
Mr Sunak and his government have faced questions over the altercation for several days, with Mr Zahawi increasingly being pressured to step aside.
In the letter, Mr Sunak told the Tory MP: “When I became prime minister last year, I promised that the government I lead would be honest, professional and responsible at every level.”
He paid tribute to Mr Zahawi’s contribution to the government, including his role as vaccines minister during the pandemic.
“When you leave, you should be extremely proud of your broad achievements in government over the past five years.
“Particularly your successful oversight of the Covid-19 vaccine procurement and deployment programme, which has ensured that the UK has been at the forefront of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Sir Laurie’s four-page report, dated 29 January and detailing the circumstances of Mr Zahawi’s tax affairs and communications with HMRC, found that the Tory chairman had “insufficient regard to the general principles of the ministerial code and its requirements in particular, under the Seven Principles of Public Life, to be honest, open and an exemplary leader by one’s own conduct”.
Sunak is unlikely to name a new Conservative chairman by the end of Sunday, the PA news agency understands.
The row surrounding Mr Zahawi centered on a tax bill over the sale of shares in YouGov – the polling firm he founded – worth an estimated £27 million and held by Balshore Investments, a company based off the coast of Gibraltar is registered and linked to Mr. Zahawi’s company. family.
Mr Zahawi, who has been a Member of Parliament for Stratford-on-Avon since 2010, had said HMRC concluded there had been a “careless and unintentional” mistake in the way the founders’ shares, which he had allocated to his father, had been allocated , were treated. .
He also insisted that he was “confident” that he had “acted correctly all along”.
Both Labor and the Liberal Democrats said it was vital that the public get answers now about what and when Mr Sunak knew about the controversy.
Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson said the Prime Minister should have fired the Tory MP “a long time ago”.
“The reason this continues is that we have a government whose only principle is: first the party, then the country. The Tories rule in their own interests, with a prime minister trying to lead his MPs, rather than governing in the national interest.
“It is vital that we now get answers to what Rishi Sunak knew and when he knew. We need to see all the paperwork, not just the prime minister’s role in this being swept under the rug,” she said.
Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper called on Zahawi to go one step further and leave parliament.
“As this was a serious breach of the ministerial code, Nadhim Zahawi should also do the right thing and step down as an MP,” she said.