Ishi Sunak faced a barrage of questions during Prime Minister’s Questions from Labour’s Sir Keir Starr on Nadim Zahawi’s tax controversy.
The Labor leader said the failure to sack Prime Minister Zahavi showed “how hopelessly weak he is” and accused the prime minister of overseeing chaos and being “overwhelmed at every turn”.
Mr Sunak suggested it would be “politically expedient” to sack the Conservative Party chairman but insisted the “due process” was to allow an investigation into his tax affairs by his ethics adviser to come to a conclusion.
The Prime Minister admitted the full picture was not being given about the Tory chairman’s financial affairs when he told MPs last week that Mr Zahavi had given a “full” account of the estimated £4.8m bill he had settled with HMRC.
But he insisted that when he entered No 10 and gave it to Mr Zahavi, who was not in the Commons, for PMQs, the job of minister without portfolio was “not an issue raised with me”.
Former Justice Secretary David Gauke previously became the latest senior Conservative figure to call on Zahavi to resign.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that he would be “very tempted” to encourage him to stand if he were prime minister.
On Tuesday night, former attorney-general Dominic Grieve told Newsnight: “If I were prime minister I would call Nadim Zahavi and I would say to him please explain what happened. Because it doesn’t need an investigation. You have to tell me what it is.
“And until Nadim Zahwi can make out that there has been some unfortunate wrongdoing in this matter that leaves him completely innocent, I think that in keeping with proper practice he should resign.”
But a Tory source said of Mr Zahavi this morning: “He is not resigning.
Prime Minister’s response to missing children ‘shameful’
The Prime Minister’s response to the 200 unaccompanied children who went missing from Home Office hotels was a “disgraceful disgrace”, Labor MP Tulip Siddique said.
He said his response was “empty”, adding that “we need action now”.
Report of children missing from Home Ministry hotel ‘concerned’: PM
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that the disappearance of 200 unaccompanied children from Home Office hotels is worrying.
Labor MP Tulip Siddique said: “Ministers have admitted they have no knowledge of the situation of these children. So may I ask the Prime Minister: does he still think Britain is a safe haven for vulnerable children?
Mr Sunak said the government was trying to end the use of hotels and said: “The United Kingdom has opened its hearts and homes to millions of people over the last few years… providing shelter and sanctuary to many children. That process.
“But the reports we read are concerning, local authorities have a statutory duty to protect all children wherever they are, and in that case they work with local authorities, including the police, to trace their whereabouts.”
Zara Alena: Prime Minister says tougher sentences keep women safe
Sir Keir Starr told the Commons that he had spoken to the family of Zara Alaina, who was murdered by Jordan McSweeney in 2022, and said they had suffered.
“He accepts the findings of the report, does he also accept what Zara’s family said?” He asked the Prime Minister.
Rishi Sunak said “his heart certainly goes out to Zara’s family”, adding that the government had taken steps to address staff shortages and other problems in the probation service.
The prime minister added: “If we want to increase the safety of women and girls on the streets, we need tougher sentences, and that is why this government passed the Police, Crime, Punishment and Courts Act, which he opposes and opposes. The party has opposed it.”
There have been calls for tougher sanctions on Iran following the execution of a British citizen
Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter raised the case of British-Iranian Alireza Akbari, who was executed in Iran last week.
The former deputy Iranian defense minister was arrested in 2019 and convicted of spying for Britain, which he denies.
Mr Slaughter accused the government of making “little effort” to protect him in the years leading up to his execution.
“In the years and days following his murder, the UK government made little effort to save the lives or deaths of any civilians,” he said.
He said the family wanted to hear from the government what sanctions they would impose on Iran “beyond the trivial steps taken so far” in relation to the case.
Mr. Sunak replied: “The regime is prolonging the family’s suffering and this is a tragic disregard for basic human dignity. Iran must now provide information on the circumstances of his death and funeral.”
He said the UK government would press the regime until the family got answers.
SNP: Zahvi tax case ‘matter of PM’s integrity and accountability’
SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said the issue of Nadim Zahavi’s tax affairs was “now a matter of the Prime Minister’s own integrity and accountability”.
He said: “Can I ask the Prime Minister what advice you would give to people trying to secure their personal finances? Should they look to the future chair of the BBC to help them secure an £800,000 loan?
“Should they set up a trust in Gibraltar and hope HMRC doesn’t notice? Or should they do as others have done and just apply for non-dom status?”
Rishi Sunak replied: “I am proud of this Government’s record in helping the most vulnerable in our society. Helping all families this winter: £900 off their energy bills, raising the National Living Wage to record levels and ensuring our pensioners get the support they need . What is this government doing to ensure economic security in this country.”
Starmer: ‘Frustratingly weak’ in not sacking Sunak Zahavi
Sir Keir accused Rishi Sunak of being too weak to sack Nadim Zahvi.
Sir Keir says: “Failure to sack him shows how hopelessly weak he is for the whole country to see what’s going on. A prime minister overseeing chaos, overwhelmed at every turn.
It is impossible to say when the ambulance will reach the heart attack victim. There is no telling when the prison system will keep the streets safe. He cannot even deal with tax evaders in his own cabinet. Is he starting to think that this job is too big for him?
Sunak replies: “The difference between him and me is that I stick to my values and principles even when things get tough.
‘I resigned from the government due to a fundamental disagreement with the former prime minister.
“But for four years he sat next to the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) – when antisemitism was rampant, when his predecessor sided with our opponents.
“This is weak, Mr. Speaker. He has no principles and petty politics.
Sunak: Labor playing ‘political opportunism’ with Zahvi tax probe
Sir Keir accused the Prime Minister of dodging the question.
He says that last week, the prime minister told MPs that Zahavi had fully addressed his tax affairs, but now says there are questions to be answered.
He asks: “What has changed?”
Mr. Sunak responded that more information had entered the public domain since last week, and that he believed in “due process,” so he appointed ethics counsel to investigate.
He accuses the opposition of “simple political opportunism” and says: “Everyone can see it”.
Sunak: I cannot ‘bias’ the investigation into the Zahawi controversy
In an apparent reference to the Nadim Zahvi row, Sir Keir asks Mr Sunak: “Does the Prime Minister agree that any politician in this country who tries to avoid the tax they owe is not fit to be held accountable for taxpayers’ money?”
Mr Zahawi has been conspicuously absent from PMQs.
The Prime Minister replies: “There were issues in question even before he became the Prime Minister. Regarding appointment [Zahawi], the normal appointment procedure was followed. No issues were raised with me when he was appointed to his current role.
“And since I commented on the matter last week, more information has come forward. And so I have asked the independent counsel to look into the matter.
“I obviously can’t prejudge the outcome of that.”
Starr asked if the government had blood on its hands over the payroll fiasco
Labour’s Sir Keir says there are “systemic problems” in parole services, which are the responsibility of the minister.
Mr. Sunak replied that steps had been taken to implement new procedures to recall offenders. He says that it has already made a difference.
Across the country, parole services are failing, says Sir Keir. “After thirteen years of a Tory government this is another vital public service on its knees.”
He says he has spoken to Ms Alainah’s family, who say the government has “blood on its hands”.
Mr Sunak replied: “We want to increase the safety of women and girls, we need tougher punishments. That’s why this government passed the Police Crimes and Punishment Act [Keir Starmer and Labour] opposition.”
Care starr presses PM on Zara Alena case
Labour’s first question concerns the case of Zara Alena, who was brutally attacked and murdered in East London. Her killer was allowed to walk the streets after failing probation, a shocking report has found.
He asked: “Does the Prime Minister accept those findings?”
Mr Sunak replied: “This is a truly horrific crime … the failings were serious and unacceptable.”
He says serious steps have been taken to address those concerns.