Nadhim Zahawi news - live: Sunak faces PMQs as Tories warn chairman must go now

More senior Conservative figures have called on Nadhim Zahawi to resign his role as party chair amid the ongoing controversy over his tax settlement with the HMRC.

Influential peer Lord Hayward became the latest Tory to say Mr Zahawi should step aside, at least until the inquiry concludes – warning that the saga could help “flatline” Tory popularity ahead of the local elections.

Earlier reports said prime minister Rishi Sunak was not informed about Mr Zahawi’s tax dispute when he appointed him to the cabinet because Whitehall officials weren’t aware of any issues.

Mr Zahawi, the cabinet minister without portfolio and Tory Party chairman, was cleared by Whitehall officials to work in Mr Sunak’s government after he became prime minister.

But according to The Times, neither he nor Liz Truss - his predecessor - were informed about Mr Zahawi’s dispute with HMRC.

Key Points

  • Tories call on Zahawi to step aside

  • Sunak and Starmer to clash at crunch PMQs

  • Nearly 2/3 of voters think he should come clean on how much he paid taxman

  • Pressure mounts on Zahawi to resign

PM disappointed with Zahawi?

13:47 , Emily Atkinson

No 10 declined to say whether the prime minister was disappointed with Nadhim Zahawi, if he had not revealed originally the full details of his tax affairs.

Mr Sunak’s press secretary said: “I am not going to comment on the PM’s emotional state.”

“A lot of what we understand is via media reports, and some of it quite speculative, that is why it is right that the independent adviser establishes the facts before any further action is taken.”

Zahawi to attend Chequers away day

15:00 , Emily Atkinson

Nadhim Zahawi will join the rest of Rishi Sunak’s cabinet for an away day at Chequers tomorrow, our Whitehall editor Kate Devlin reports from the post-PMQs huddle.

More on this when we have it.

Downing Street dodges question on whether Sunak has ever paid tax penalty

14:44 , Matt Mathers

Downing Street has repeatedly declined to say whether Rishi Sunak has ever paid a tax penalty like Tory chairman Nadhim Zahawi did.

The prime minister’s press secretary insisted Mr Sunak’s tax affairs are "confidential", even as he prepares to publish his tax return in an attempt at transparency.

Mr Sunak’s finances are under renewed scrutiny after it emerged Mr Zahawi settled an estimated £4.7 million bill with HMRC while he was chancellor.

Sunak will sack Zahawi if he broke rules, says Tory minister

14:22 , Adam Forrest

Tory trade minister Andrew Bowie told BBC Politics Live that Mr Sunak would fire the Tory chairman if the ethics adviser found he had breached ministerial code rules.

“If [Mr Zahawi] is found to have fallen foul in this report, the prime minister will of course sack him,” the minister told BBC Politics Live.

Mr Bowie added: “But we need to let the process run its course … and the prime minister take a decision on the basis of that.”

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Zahwai must explain HMRC penalty over tax affairs, Tory MP says

14:14 , Emily Atkinson

A Conservative MP has called on Nadhim Zahawi to explain why he was required by HMRC to pay a penalty in relation to his tax affairs.

Nigel Mills said an investigation by Rishi Sunak’s ethics adviser into whether the Conservative party chairman broke the ministerial code will not end the questions he is facing.

“I just don’t see an investigation into the ministerial code resolves this because if he is cleared by that, that won’t stop people asking questions about what on earth happened,” Mr Mills told the BBC Radio 4’s World at One.

“The guy that is doing the investigation reports to the prime minister and the prime minister makes decisions. It is not a public process.

“If that finds there was no breach of the ministerial code that is not going to be an end of this matter. I think the only way to resolve this is to make clear what the situation was that gave rise to a significant penalty.

“If that can be explained we can all move on. If it can’t, then clearly his position won’t be tenable.”

Sunak ‘fully focused’ on priorities

14:05 , Emily Atkinson

Rishi Sunak remains “fully focused” on his priorities despite the uproar over Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs, Downing Street has insisted.

Mr Sunak’s press secretary said: “Obviously the prime minister is fully focused on delivering the five promises he made to the country.”

Sunak may not sack Zahawi in event of ministerial code breach

13:55 , Emily Atkinson

Rishi Sunak may not sack Nadhim Zahawi even if he is found to have breached the ministerial code, Downing Street has suggested.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “Recently the code was updated so it’s no longer a binary decision.”

More Zahawi surprises to come?

13:43 , Emily Atkinson

Downing Street was unable to say whether Rishi Sunak was confident no more damaging surprises would emerge about Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs.

The prime minister’s press secretary said: “I don’t think any of us can predict what may come up but I think he’s confident now he’s put the right process in place and the independent adviser is looking into it.”

No 10 has indicated Mr Sunak received assurances about Mr Zahawi’s tax affairs before defending him at PMQs last Wednesday.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Pressed over what happened at the start of last week before Mr Sunak went on to say Mr Zahawi had addressed the matter “in full”, the press secretary said: “I wouldn’t get into private conversations... the prime minister was given assurances that it had been dealt with prior to what he said in the House on Wednesday.”

But pressed further she would not say whether the assurances were different to the ones he received at the time he appointed Mr Zahawi as a minister.

No 10 swerves questions over Sunak’s tax affairs

13:38 , Emily Atkinson

Downing Street has repeatedly declined to say whether Rishi Sunak has ever paid a tax penalty, as with Tory chairman Nadhim Zahawi.

Instead, the PM’s press secretary said: “You wouldn’t expect me to get into the prime minister’s tax affairs, they are confidential.

“The tax affairs of an individual, irrespective of who they are, are confidential.”

Mr Sunak will, however, publish his tax return “in due course”.

The press secretary would not commit to the publishing of six years of the PM’s tax returns, as David Cameron did.

No 10 address Sunak’s response to Zahawi tax settlement

13:29 , Emily Atkinson

Rishi Sunak was only using the information he knew at the time when he told MPs last week that Nadhim Zahawi had “already addressed this matter in full and there’s nothing more that I can add”, No 10 says.

Mr Sunak faced questions in the Commons on Wednesday about the Tory Party chairman’s tax affairs.

The prime minister’s press secretary was asked by reporters if Mr Sunak would correct the record, referring to his previous comments on the controversy.

She said: “Additional facts have come to light since the PM said that which have been put in the public domain by the party chairman himself.”

Pressed again, she said: “The prime minister can only go off what he knows.”

‘Scotland considers Tories to be a parcel of rogues'

13:18 , Emily Atkinson

Speaking during today’s session of PMQs, SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn told MPs: “Is it little wonder that people in Scotland may well just consider the Tory party to be a parcel of rogues?”

He said: “After all, when there was questions about the Home Secretary... and concerns about her role in relation to national security, he chose to back her.

“Now the chair of the Tory Party, he’s choosing to back him despite a £5 million penalty from HMRC, and of course he’s seeking to protect the former prime minister despite his cosy financial relationship with the chair of the BBC.

“Is it little wonder that people in Scotland may well just consider the Tory party to be a parcel of rogues.”

Rishi Sunak replied: “What I am standing up for is proper due process, that’s why we have an independent adviser, it’s right that the independent adviser conducts his investigation. That’s how we will ensure accountability and that’s what I will deliver.”

‘I stand by my values'

12:54 , Matt Mathers

Starmer asks PM if he’s starting to think “is this job too big for him?”

PM says the difference between him and Labour leader is that “I stand by my values and principles even when it is difficult”.

He says that when he disagreed “fundamentally” with the previous PM “I resigned” from the government.

Sunak reminds Starmer that he served in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet for “four long years” when anti-semitism “ran rife”.

He says that’s what is “weak”.

‘Hopelessly weak'

12:39 , Matt Mathers

Keir Starmer today accused Rishi Sunak of being “hopelessly weak” for failing to sack Nadhim Zahawi as the two leaders clashed at PMQs over the Tory chairman’s ongoing controversy over his tax settlement with the HMRC.

The Labour leader accused Mr Sunak, who this week ordered his ethics adviser to investigate Mr Zahawi’s tax affairs, of “overseeing chaos”, saying it was “fairly obvious” that the former chancellor should step aside.

The Prime Minister rebuffed Mr Starmer’s questions on the saga, insisting that the questions arose before he was PM. Former chancellor Mr Zahawi did not appear to be present in the Commons as the two leaders met.

Today’s session came after more senior Conservative figures called on Mr Zahawi to resign his role as party chair.

Influential peer Lord Hayward became the latest Tory to say Mr Zahawi should step aside, at least until the inquiry concludes – warning that the saga could help “flatline” Tory popularity ahead of the local elections.

Zahawi missing from front bench

12:35 , Matt Mathers

Sunak says the opposition “can’t have it both ways”.

He says he was urged by Labour to appoint an ethics adviser...now they are complaining that he is doing his job.

In other developments from the session, Zahawi was notably missing from the government front bench.

 (Supplied)
(Supplied)

‘Proper due process'

12:32 , Matt Mathers

Sunak accuses Starmer of reading from “prepared sheets”, adding: “he should listen to what I say”.

PM repeats his comments saying that he was only made aware of the additional details of Zahawi’s case when they appeared in the media.

He goes on to say that the “politically expedient” thing to do would be for him to say that the matter would be resolved by “Wednesday afternoon”.

“But I believe in proper due process”, PM adds.

 (Parliament Live)
(Parliament Live)

‘What changed?'

12:28 , Matt Mathers

Labour leader says that, to anybody watching, it is “fairly obvious” that someone who “seeks to avoid tax” can’t also be in charge of tax.

“Yet for some reason the prime minister can’t bring himself to say that,” he adds.

Starmer then points out that Sunak told the Commons last week that Zahawi had addressed the matter in full and that there was “nothing to add.”

Since the PM says there are now questions that need answering, Starmer asks him: “what changed?”

Sunak: I obviously can’t pre-judge outcome of probe

12:24 , Matt Mathers

Sunak adds that as soon as he found out additional details about Zahawi’s taxes he ordered his ethics adviser to investigate.

“I obviously can’t pre-judge the outcome” of the probe, he adds, but it is “right” that we fully investigate to establish all the facts.

Starmer responds that Sunak “avoided the question”.

‘Completely clear'

12:21 , Matt Mathers

Sunak says he wishes to make his position on this matter “completely clear”.

To laughs and jeers from MPs on the Labour side, PM says the issues in the case occurred before he was in No 10.

He said that the usual processes took place when Zahawi was appointed cabinet minister without portfolio.

“No issues were raised with me”, he adds.

Starmer moves on to Zahawi

12:18 , Matt Mathers

Starmer now moves on to Nadhim Zahawi’s tax arrangements.

He asks the PM if agrees that any politician who seeks to avoid paying the “taxes they owe in this country” is not fit to be in charge of people’s money.

‘Truly terrible crime'

12:13 , Matt Mathers

Sunak responds saying this was a “truly terrible crime” and that the failings in the case were “serious” and “unacceptable”.

He says there were failings in the risk assessment of her killer, Jordan McSweeney, who was classed as “medium” rather than high risk.

PM says “immediate” steps are being to address the failings.

‘Brilliant young woman'

12:10 , Matt Mathers

Keir Starmer uses his first question to raise the case of Zara Aleena, who was raped and murdered while walking home in London.

He says she was a “brilliant young woman” - a trainee lawyer with a “bright future”.

Starmer says her killer was free to walk the streets when he carried out his attack.

He asks the PM if he accepts the findings of a recent report saying that probation services missed opportunities to prevent her murder.

Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs: A timeline of how the controversy played out

12:10 , Matt Mathers

Questions have swirled around Nadhim Zahawi and his tax affairs in recent weeks but the row came to a head in the last few days – piling pressure on the Tory chairman and forcing Rishi Sunak to address what he knew and when about the allegations.

The ongoing row centres on a tax bill over the sale of shares in YouGov, the polling firm Mr Zahawi founded. The shares, worth an estimated £27m, were held by Balshore Investments, a company registered offshore in Gibraltar and linked to Mr Zahawi’s family.

Here is how the controversy has played out:

PMQs kicking off shortly

11:55 , Matt Mathers

Prime Minister’s Questions will kick off shortly, with Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer going head-to-head in the Commons chamber.

Starmer is likely to tackle the PM about the tax affairs of Nadhim Zahawi - a story that has dominated the political agenda for the past few days.

MPs are filing into the chamber as we speak. We’ll bring you updates throughout the session. You can also watch the exchanges live on our YouTube channel:

Live: Women and equalities committee faces questions in the Commons

Nadhim Zahawi: 5 questions that need answering on tax affairs

11:45 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak is under pressure after he resisted firing Nadhim Zahawi, despite the Conservative chairman’s admission he settled a tax dispute after an HMRC investigation.

The prime minister, who has ordered his ethics adviser to investigate whether Mr Zahawi broke ministerial rules, admitted there are “questions that need answering” as the saga rumbles on.

Some Tory MPs want Mr Zahawi to quit, though others have urged him to “get out” more tax details in an attempt to clear the matter up. The Independent takes a closer look at the big unanswered questions.

Our politics correspondent Adam Forrest reports:

Nadhim Zahawi: 5 questions that need answering on tax affairs

Rishi Sunak welcomes ‘allies and friends’ sending tanks to Ukraine

11:32 , Matt Mathers

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has welcomed moves by “Nato allies and friends” to send battle tanks to Ukraine.

His comments came after Germany confirmed it would send Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv.

“The right decision by NATO Allies and friends to send main battle tanks to Ukraine. Alongside Challenger 2s, they will strengthen Ukraine’s defensive firepower,” Mr Sunak said.

“Together, we are accelerating our efforts to ensure Ukraine wins this war and secures a lasting peace.”

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Which Tories are calling on Zahawi to quit?

11:02 , Matt Mathers

More senior Conservative figures have called on Nadhim Zahawi to resign his role as party chair amid the ongoing controversy over his tax settlement with the HMRC.

The prime minister, who has ordered his ethics adviser to investigate whether Mr Zahawi broke ministerial rules, is also under pressure to act, having admitted there are “questions that need answering”.

Who has called on Mr Zahawi to quit? Our politics correspondent Adam Forrest reports:

More senior Tory figures call on Nadhim Zahawi to quit

'Uncomfortable' PMQs if Zahawi doesn't quit, says ex-minister

10:45 , Matt Mathers

Former Tory minister David Gauke told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was “hard to see how this doesn’t ultimately end in [Mr Zahawi’s] resignation”, Adam Forrest, our politics correspondent, reports.

He said it would be a “very uncomfortable” PMQs for Mr Sunak if he was still in post at 12pm.

It is widely expected that Labour leader Keir Starmer will use at least some of his questions during PMQs to tackle Sunak on the issue.

Zahawi should ‘consider his position’, says Tory peer

10:25 , Matt Mathers

The influential Tory peer Lord Hayward said Mr Zahawi “should be considering whether he stands aside for the period of the inquiry” – warning that the saga could help “flatline” Tory popularity ahead of the local elections, Adam Forrest, our politics correspondent reports.

Lord Hayward, a Tory polling expert, told Sky News: “I think there is a difficulty where you are party chairman because you’re supposed to be out there motivating the campaigners in preparations for key local elections.”

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Whitehall officials were not aware of Zahawi tax dispute - report

09:56 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak was not informed about Nadhim Zahawi’s tax dispute when he appointed him to the cabinet because Whitehall officials weren’t aware of it, it has been claimed.

Mr Zahawi, the cabinet minister without portfolio, was cleared by Whitehall officials for the Tory chairman role under Mr Sunak after he became prime minister.

But according to The Times, neither he nor Liz Truss - his predecessor - were informed about Mr Zahawi’s dispute with HMRC.

Mr Zahawi served as Liz Truss’s equalities minister during Ms Truss’s short stint in No 10 Downing Street. He briefly served as chancellor in the dying days of Boris Johnson’s government.

One government source suggested to The Times that Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, should have briefed both Mr Sunak and Ms Truss about the potential liability of keeping Zahawi in the cabinet.

But another said: "They didn’t know about the fine because HMRC didn’t tell them."

Sunak and Starmer to face off at crunch PMQs

09:24 , Matt Mathers

The first two PMQs sessions of 2023 have largely followed the same pattern: Starmer attacking Sunak on public sector strikes and the state of the NHS and the PM hitting back by claiming that the Labour leader is opposed to the government’s anti-strike legislation because he’s in the pocket of unions.

Many of those disputes remain unresolved and with more walkouts planned in the weeks ahead, there is every chance Sunak could be tackled on industrial action by Starmer once again when the pair appear before MPs in the Commons later for round three.

But today’s exchanges in the chamber will almost certainly take on a different feel after the Labour leader was gifted additional ammunition in the form of a scandal over the tax affairs of Tory Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi, which shows absolutely no signs of dying down first thing Wednesday morning.

Read more here:

Inside Politics: Questions to the prime minister

Is Sunak about to dump Zahawi? Tory MPs say PM risks looking ‘indecisive’ over tax row

09:21 , Matt Mathers

Is Rishi Sunak about to dump Nadhim Zahawi? The prime minister is facing a backlash from his own MPs over the decision to keep the Tory chairman in the cabinet despite ordering an investigation into his tax affairs.

No 10 appears to be hardening its line on the embattled former chancellor after new details of the tax scandal emerged.

Just a week ago the PM was defending Mr Zahawi in the Commons. But as pressure on Mr Sunak mounts, Downing Street declined to say he was confident Mr Zahawi had always been honest about his finances.

Kate Devlin, politics editor and Adam Forrest, politics correspondent, report:

Keeping Nadhim Zahawi in cabinet during tax probe is ‘insanity’ ex-minister warns

Tell us how much you owed the taxman, voters tell Zahawi

09:16 , Matt Mathers

Almost two in three Britons want Conservative chairman Nadhim Zahawi to set out how much it took to settle his tax dispute with HMRC, a poll for The Independent has found.

Some 64 per cent of people – including 61 per cent of Tory voters – say Mr Zahawi should reveal exactly how much he handed over, according to the Savanta ComRes survey.

Our politics correspondent Adam Forrest reports:

Nadhim Zahawi: 5 questions that need answering on tax affairs

Re-cap: who is Nadhim Zahawi?

09:13 , Matt Mathers

An Iraqi refugee who arrived in Britain aged nine with no English rose to No 11 Downing Street and propped up Boris Johnson’s ailing administration last summer, only to be hit by a tax scandal himself, my colleague Joe Sommerlad reports.

Read the full article here:

All you need to know about the under-fire Tory Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi

09:11 , Matt Mathers

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live politics coverage.

We’ll be bringing you updates throughout the day as Nadhim Zahawi faces pressure to resign over a row about his tax arrangement.

Stay tuned for all the latest news and PMQs at midday.