Growing pressure on Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi to resign as Conservative Party chair
STRATFORD MP Nadhim Zahawi will face growing pressure to resign as Conservative Party chairman today (Wednesday) over his tax dispute with HMRC.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer looks likely to press the prime minister Rishi Sunak at PMQs on the issue of Mr Zahawi’s multi-million-pound settlement.
So far, Mr Sunak has backed the former chancellor to continue as party chair, but has ordered his ethics adviser to investigate whether any ministerial rules were broken by Mr Zahawi over the estimated £4.8 million bill.
Former Conservative minister David Gauke told the BBC this morning that he expected Mr Zahawi would have to resign.
"It's hard to see how this doesn't ultimately end in his resignation,” he said, as there were too many "impossible questions".
At last week’s PMQs Mr Sunak said Mr Zahawi had answered questions in full about his tax affairs, but since then further details have emerged, including that a penalty had been paid to settle the dispute.
Mr Sunak has admitted there are “questions that need answering”.
Mr Zahawi has also faced criticism for his use of lawyers when questions were raised about his tax affairs last summer.
Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Lord Evans, suggested “trying to close down a legitimate public debate” would not live up to the Nolan principles on public life that must be upheld under the ministerial code.
“Accountability, openness are things which the government says that it wants to be characterising its own behaviour, so that I think speaks for itself,” he told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.
“The sort of attempts, apparent legal attempts to suppress this story, I don’t think that does live up to the sort of standards that the public would rightly expect.”
Senior Conservative MP Caroline Nokes has called on Mr Zahawi to “stand aside until this matter is all cleared up”.
Mr Zahawi has insisted his error over shares in the YouGov polling company he co-founded was “careless and not deliberate”.
In a statement issued last weekend he admitted he paid a settlement to HM Revenue & Customs, and said this resulted from a “careless and not deliberate” tax error related to his father’s shareholding in YouGov.