Nadhim Zahawi sacked by PM after paying HMRC seven-figure sum to end tax dispute

ITV News Reporter Vincent McAviney explains the timeline leading up to Zahawi's sacking

Nadhim Zahawi has been sacked by Rishi Sunak, with the Prime Minister telling the Tory chairman in a letter that it is “clear that there has been a serious breach of the Ministerial Code”.

Rishi Sunak had ordered an investigation into Mr Zahawi by Sir Laurie Magnus, his independent adviser on ministers’ interests, following reports that the Tory chairman had paid a penalty as part of an estimated £4.8 million settlement dispute with HMRC.

It comes a day after Number 10 denied reports that the PM received informal advice in October that Nadhim Zahawi's tax affairs could damage the government's reputation.

Mr Zahawi admitted last week to paying seven-figure tax settlement while serving as Chancellor.

In a letter to Nadhim Zahawi, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the findings of his independent adviser on ministers’ interests Sir Laurie Magnus made it “clear that there has been a serious breach of the ministerial code”.

The letter said: “When I became Prime Minister last year, I pledged that the government I lead would have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level.

“That is why, following new information which came to light in recent days regarding your personal financial arrangements and declarations, I asked Sir Laurie Magnus, the independent adviser on ministers’ interests, to fully investigate this matter. You agreed and undertook to co-operate fully with the inquiry.

“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 His Majesty’s Government.

“As you leave, you should be extremely proud of your wide-ranging achievements in government over the last five years.

“In particular, your successful oversight of the Covid-19 vaccine procurement and deployment programme which ensured the United Kingdom was at the forefront of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Mr Sunak and his Government had faced questions for several days about the row, with growing pressure on Mr Zahawi to stand aside. Credit: PA

Nadhim Zahawi has told the Prime Minister he can be “assured of my support from the backbenches in the coming years”, in a letter to Rishi Sunak following his sacking.

Mr Zahawi did not explicitly mention the findings of the ethics inquiry into his tax affairs but he tells Mr Sunak that he is concerned “about the conduct from some of the fourth estate in recent weeks”, in a reference to the media.

He said: “It has been, after being blessed with my loving family, the privilege of my life to serve in successive governments and make what I believe to have been a tangible difference to the country I love.”

Political Correspondent Harry Horton explains the details in letters exchanged by the PM and Nadhim Zahawi

In comments that appear to indicate that the former chancellor holds out little prospect of returning to office in the years to come, he said: “You can be assured of my support from the backbenches in the coming years. Your five priorities are the right priorities, and I will do whatever I can to help you deliver them.”

The Liberal Democrats have called on Nadhim Zahawi to resign as an MP as they seek an independent inquiry into the affair.

Deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “Rishi Sunak has finally acted after spending days defending the indefensible on Nadhim Zahawi.

“It should never have taken him this long to act. Sunak’s first 100 days in office have been tarnished by endless Conservative sleaze and scandals.

“Serious questions remain about what Sunak knew about Zahawi’s tax affairs when he appointed him. We need a proper independent inquiry to establish the facts and hold the Prime Minister to account.

“Given this was a serious breach of the ministerial code, Nadhim Zahawi must also do the right thing and resign as an MP. He has shown he is unfit to serve in Cabinet and unfit to serve the people of Stratford-on-Avon.”

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Meanwhile, Labour’s Andy Burnham has said Rishi Sunak should temporarily remove deputy prime minister Dominic Raab from government in the wake of the firing.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme that the Prime Minister should suspend Mr Raab – who reports suggest has had at least 24 complaints made against him – until an investigation into his conduct is complete.

Mr Burnham said: “I think he should deal with the Dominic Raab situation in the way that I’ve described. That isn’t going away.

“When ministers are subject to serious investigations like that, I think they should temporarily step aside from their roles. The Boris Johnson situation needs to be dealt with. Questions need clearing up but by failing to do that, they then dominate and that’s the issue that I’m raising here.”

He added: “I think we’re living in very strange times where the disconnect between what’s going on in Westminster and the rest of the country is getting bigger and bigger. People are getting more and more frustrated about it and the government really needs to hear that and deal quickly with these things, put them to one side and get the focus back where it needs to be.

“I would love to know how much time has been taken up in Downing Street and Whitehall this week dealing with this situation. I bet they’ve taken more time on this than the other things I’ve mentioned.”