Labour says Rishi Sunak should sack Nadhim Zahawi, not just order an inquiry. In a statment Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, said:
This pathetic attempt to pass the buck is simply not good enough. Nadhim Zahawi was chancellor of the exchequer while he hadn’t paid his tax and was negotiating a settlement with HMRC at the time. You don’t need an ethics adviser to tell you that’s unacceptable.
The prime minister made the decision to appoint Nadhim Zahawi as a government minister and Conservative party chair. Rishi Sunak’s vote of confidence in Nadhim Zahawi is yet another example of his weak leadership and appalling judgement. He can no longer dodge questions about what he knew and when, or why warnings were ignored.
It’s his responsibility as prime minister to ensure his cabinet’s tax affairs are up-to-date and in order, but he’s too compromised to do his job and failing to deliver the integrity, professionalism and accountability he promised. Rishi Sunak must get a grip and dismiss Nadhim Zahawi from his cabinet immediately.
Stephen Timms (Lab) says Nadhim Zahawi went on TV and said his tax affairs were fully paid and up to date in the summer. But we now know that is not true, don’t we?
Quin says he does not know the answer to that.
Richard Burgon (Lab) says Rishi Sunak promised to act with integrity when be became PM. He says when you have a government “of the super-rich, for the super-rich”, conflicts of interest are more likely.
Gagan Mohindra (Con) asks Quin if he agrees that the outcome of the inquiry into Nadhim Zahawi should not be pre-judged. Quin does agree (unsurprisingly).
Angela Richardson (Con) accuses Labour of “brass neck”. She says Labour spent months calling for a No 10 ethics adviser to be appointed, but now he is in place, Labour says his advice is not needed.
John Nicolson is speaking for the SNP. He sits on the culture committee, and he focuses on the Richard Sharp appointment.
He says Sharp never mentioned his involvement with the loan guarantee to Boris Johnson when he appeared before the committee.
Other applicants were told not to reply, he says. He says “even by the grubby standards of this government it’s all a bit banana republic”.
Quin says a robust process was followed. He says the BBC itself is going to look into this.
Quin is replying to Rayner.
He says the government will follow process, and await the outcome of the investigation.
He provokes laughter from some MPs when he says the government believes in professionalism and integrity.
Labour should do the same, he says.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, is responding now.
She does not seem to be paying much attention to the Speaker’s ruling about not criticising individuals. She asks Nadhim Zahawi could be appointed to run the tax system when he owed taxes himself. She says this is so absurd that people must have assumed it might never happen.
Jeremy Quin,the Cabinet Office minister, makes a short statement.
He talks about how ministers are appointment, but he does refer to the Nadhim Zahawi case at the end, saying the No 10 ethics adviser, Sir Laurie Magnus, is now looking into this.
The Labour urgent question is taking place now.
Labour is asking for a statement on the government’s “processes for vetting ministerial appointments and managing conflicts of interest”.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker, says MPs can ask about these issues.
But he says they are not debating a substantive motion, and so MPs should not criticise other MPs.
William Shawcross, the commissioner for public appointments, has announced that he will view the circumstances that led to Richard Sharp being appointed as chairman of the BBC. In a statement prompted by yesterday’s Sunday Times revelations, and a call for a review from Labour, he said:
The role of the commissioner is to oversee the public appointments process and ensure appointments are made fairly, openly and on merit.
I intend to review this competition to assure myself and the public that the process was run in compliance with the government’s governance code for public appointments, using my powers under the order in council 2019 and the governance code.
My office has today called for the relevant papers from the Department for Media, Culture and Sport.
Dominic Grieve, the former Tory attorney general, adopted almost exactly the same line as Labour’s Angela Rayner (see 1.50pm) when he was asked about Nadhim Zahawi on the World at One. He said that that Rishi Sunak should not need an ethics adviser to determine whether or not Zahawi was in the wrong.
Grieve told the programme:
The question as to whether somebody’s tax affairs have become sufficiently badly handled that they are proper people to remain in government is something which is dependent on facts. It doesn’t need the ethics advisor to tell you that.
Grieve, who left the Conservative party over Brexit, also said that ministers should be willing to resign over mistakes, instead of clining on to office. He said:
There is something slightly cleansing about somebody taking responsibility and giving up office if they come in for sustained criticism on something, whether it’s personal or indeed a policy failure.
But we’ve seem to gotten away from that. Instead we seem to be in a world where people don’t resign and then it all gets dragged out and the longer it gets dragged out, the bigger the reputational damage to the political party but also to politics and politicians more generally.
Keir Starmer has said that he wants people in the Labour party to discuss their differences on trans issues “with respect and with tolerance”.
He was speaking on a visit today after the Labour MP Rosie Duffield said last week that that she felt “ostracised” by the party because of her gender-critical views, and a Labour aide was subsequently recorded being critical about her.
I’m very concerned that all of our discussions in the Labour Party and in politics are discussions that we have with respect and with tolerance.
And they’re the principles and the values that I want to see in our Labour Party and that I insist on in our Labour party, whether it’s Rosie Duffield or anybody else.
There will be differences of opinion, of course there will, but respect and tolerance are the values that we must have in all those debates.
Yesterday the Mail on Sunday ran a story saying an unnamed “senior aide to Starmer” had been critical of Duffield, saying she should spend more time in her constituency and less time “hanging out with JK Rowling”, another critic of trans rights policies. Today the anti-Labour website Guido Fawkes has published an edited audio clip of Matthew Doyle, Labour’s head of communications, making those comments.
It is understood that Doyle was recorded without his knowledge having a general chat with a journalist when other journalists were in the vicinity, and that he thinks the clip has been edited very selectively. Although aides from all parties do sometimes speak out against their own colleagues at Westminster, Doyle’s comments are at the very mild end of what might count as a negative briefing. He says that it is people in her constituency party who want her to spend more time there and implies that she has cordial relations with Starmer.
Asked today about the comments made about Duffield, Starmer said:
Respect and tolerance are values of the entire Labour party. Of course I know there are strong and differing opinions on a number of issues. But respect and tolerance are there as my values, Labour party values, whatever we’re discussing.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has said that it would be in the public interest for the Scottish government to challenge the UK government’s decision to block its gender recognition reform bill in the courts.
Last week Alister Jack, the Scottish secretary, said that for the first time since the Scotland Act was passed 25 years ago Westminster would use a section 35 order allowed under the legislation to block a Scottish bill.
Sturgeon said the Scottish government was “looking at all options” to challenge this. It is expected to seek a judicial review of the decision, but Sturgeon would not say when that might be.
At a news conference in Edinburgh, she said it would be in the public interest for the courts to decide when the use of section 35 was legitimate. She said:
There is, I think, a real public interest in getting some judicial interpretation of section 35 and what are the circumstances that it can be used, can’t be used, what tests need to be passed, what evidence does the UK Government need to put forward.
Right now, as things stand, as was demonstrated last week, this is a power than can be used pretty much on the whim of the UK government any time they have a political disagreement with the Scottish government on a piece of legislation and they can find a spurious ground to invoke Section 35 – that seems to be what can happen.
Sturgeon also criticised Jack and Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister for refusing to give evidence to a Scottish parliament committee about the decision to use section 35. She said:
I take the view that if you’re going to outrageously and unacceptably ride roughshod over the democratically elected Scottish parliament and seek to overturn decisions that the democratically elected Scottish parliament has arrived at, you should at least have the guts to turn up and sit before a committee of the democratically elected Scottish parliament and set out your reasons for doing so.
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