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Nadhim Zahawi should “step aside” as Tory chairman while a sleaze probe is carried out into his tax affairs, his predecessor in the job has declared.

Jake Berry said it was “unsustainable” for any minister to stay in post while being investigated.

Rishi Sunak has called in his independent ethics adviser to carry out an inquiry into a multi-million pound settlement he reached with HMRC while he was chancellor last year.

The prime minister has so far resisted calls for Zahawi – who is also a Cabinet Office minister – to be sacked.

Appearing on Question Time last night, Berry – who himself was sacked as Conservative chairman by Sunak when he became PM – said: “The view I have put forward consistently in relation to all these sorts of issues is that the government needs to find a mechanism for ministers and MPs who are under investigation in this way to step aside, to clear their name and then to come back into government if that is appropriate.

“I think for Nadhim that would be the right thing to do now… I do think it’s unsustainable for a minister to stay in post while this investigation is going on, including other ministers who are also under investigation.”

His comments echo those of Tory MP Caroline Nokes and Conservative peer Lord Hayward, who have both suggested Zahawi should stand down as party chairman.

In a further blow to Zahawi’s chances of survival, HMRC chief Jim Harra told MPs that there are “no penalties for innocent errors” over tax probes.

It is understood that Zahawi had to pay a penalty of more than £1 million as part of his settlement with the tax man.

Harra said: “If you take reasonable care, but nevertheless make a mistake, while you will be liable for the tax and for interest if it’s paid late, you would not be liable for a penalty.

“But if your error was as a result of carelessness, then legislation says that a penalty could apply in those circumstances.”

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#Senior #Tory #Called #Nadhim #Zahawi #Stand #Tax #Row

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