Rishi Sunak insists he 'acted pretty decisively' in sacking Nadhim Zahawi
Rishi Sunak has insisted he "acted pretty decisively" in sacking Nadhim Zahawi over the weekend.
Speaking during a visit to Durham, the Prime Minister said that despite serious questions over the ex-minister's tax affairs he had to allow due process to take place.
READ MORE: Zahawi sacked over 'serious breach' of ministerial code in tax scandal
“The things that happened before I was Prime Minister, I can’t do anything about," he said.
“What I think you can hold me to account for is how I deal with the things that arise on my watch.
“And as you’ve seen, you know, when it came to Nadhim Zahawi, I asked the independent adviser to look at it straight away, acted on his findings straightaway.
“That should give you some confidence that these things matter to me, and that I will take whatever steps are necessary to restore the integrity back into politics, and you can have confidence that the process works.”
Mr Zahawi was fired on Sunday over a “serious breach” of the ministerial code regarding his tax affairs, and a £4.8m settlement - including a substantial penalty - agreed when he was Chancellor
READ MORE: Zahawi timeline: How the former minister’s tax controversy played out
A probe by ethics advisor Sir Laurie Magnus found seven potential conflicts with the strict guidelines governing the behaviour of ministers.
Sir Laurie concluded Mr Zahawi "failed to meet the requirement to declare any interests which might be thought to give rise to a conflict”.
He reported: "Mr Zahawi failed to disclose relevant information – in this case the nature of the investigation and its outcome in a penalty – at the time of his appointment, including to Cabinet Office officials who support that process.
“Without knowledge of that information, the Cabinet Office was not in a position to inform the appointing Prime Minister.
“Taken together, I consider that these omissions constitute a serious failure to meet the standards set out in the ministerial code.”
Mr Sunak said he had made a “very quick decision” to sack Nadhim Zahawi once he was presented with the report.
“We have an independent adviser, that’s what the Government has, it’s not me who is doing it.
“What I asked, when all these questions starting coming to light about Nadhim Zahawi, I asked the independent adviser to get to the bottom of it and provide me with the facts.”
READ MORE: Brian Taylor: Is this the moment Rishi Sunak lost hope of victory?
Mr Sunak added: “It relates to things that happened well before I was Prime Minister, so unfortunately I can’t change what happened in the past.
“What you can hold me accountable for is: what did you do about it? What I did, as soon as I knew about the situation, was appoint someone independent, looked at it, got the advice and then acted pretty decisively.”
Mr Zahawi is reportedly furious that he has been pushed out of government. According to reports he may publish a formal response to Sir Laurie's report.
In his resignation letter, he said that serving as a minister had been the “privilege of my life.
He then went on to criticise the media.
“I am concerned about the conduct from some of the fourth estate in recent weeks,” he said. “In a week when a member of parliament was physically assaulted, I fail to see how one headline on this issue, ‘The Noose Tightens’, reflects legitimate scrutiny of public officials. I am sorry to my family for the toll this has taken on them.”
Mr Zahawi had previously threatened journalists and bloggers writing about his tax affairs with legal action.