Zac Goldsmith resigns after being asked to apologise for Partygate probe comments

In a scathing letter to the Prime Minister, the Tory peer accused Rishi Sunak of being 'simply uninterested' in climate issues, ITV News' Amy Lewis reports

Lord Zac Goldsmith has announced his resignation as a minister after being asked to apologise for his comments about the Partygate investigation into Boris Johnson.

The Foreign Office minister was named and shamed in a report by the Privileges Committee which singled out MPs they said were part of a co-ordinated attempt to undermine the panel’s work.

Lord Goldsmith reposted a tweet that called the Partygate inquiry a witch hunt and a kangaroo court.

In a scathing letter to the Prime Minister on Friday, the Tory peer accused Rishi Sunak of being "simply uninterested" in climate issues, and cited this as his reason for resigning.

In the letter, Lord Goldsmith said the government's "apathy" towards climate change had made his position "untenable".

He said he was "horrified" that key animal welfare commitments have also been abandoned, such as the Kept Animals Bill.

In his letter to the PM, Lord Goldsmith wrote: "Prime Minister, having been able to get so much done previously, I have struggled even to hold the line in recent months.

"The problem is not that the government is hostile to the environment, it is that you, our Prime Minister, are simply uninterested. That signal, or lack of it, has trickled down through Whitehall and caused a kind of paralysis."

In response, Prime Miniser Rishi Sunak wrote: "I accept your resignation. You were asked to apologise for your comments about the Privileges Committee as we felt they were incompatible with your position as a minister of the crown. You have decided to take a different course."

Lord Goldsmith's letter made no mention of a report released on Thursday by parliament's Privileges Committee which named and shamed eight Conservative politicians, Lord Goldsmith included.

The committee cited comments by senior MPs, including Nadine Dorries, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and Dame Priti Patel, claiming they were part of a co-ordinated attempt to undermine the panel’s work.

The committee said MPs should consider whether the remarks could be deemed a contempt of Parliament and what further action to take.

Those named in the report could now face suspension from Parliament, with Ministers expected to debate the findings of the report on July 10.

The committee ultimately triggered Mr Johnson’s resignation from Parliament in protest at its recommendation that he should face a lengthy suspension for misleading the Commons with his denials of lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street.

Boris Johnson and Zac Goldsmith in 2016. Credit: PA

Responding to the resignation, Labour accused Mr Sunak of "weakness".

Shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon said: "Rishi Sunak’s weakness is laid bare as 24 hours after he refused to condemn Zac Goldsmith, Goldsmith scathingly condemns him.

"This ‘simply uninterested’ Prime Minister can’t lead his own team, never mind lead the country. The Conservatives are in disarray – with mortgages soaring, NHS waiting lists rocketing, and in their own words: ‘apathy in the face of the greatest challenge we face’."

The Liberal Democrats said the PM should have "had the guts" to sack Lord Goldsmith following his "brutal" censure in the Privileges Committee report.

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