Caroline Nokes has urged the Conservative Party chairman to stand aside
In the latest development in the Nadhim Zahawi tax scandal, ex-minister Caroline Nokes has called on her party’s chairman to stand aside while Sunak’s sleaze watchdog looks into the multimillion-pound tax dispute.
It is alleged that Zahawi paid an estimated £5m penalty to HMRC when he was Chancellor between July and September.
In an attempt to defuse the latest Tory sleaze scandal, the PM has ordered Sir Laurie Magnus, his new ethics advisor, to look into the allegations.
In a dig at Boris Johnson’s time at No 10, which was marked by scandal and sleaze, Nokes said the row was “a hangover from prime ministers past.”
Talking on BBC Breakfast, the Women and Equalities Committee chair said: “Sadly this looks like a hangover from prime ministers past and I think Nadhim needs to come clean on all of the questions that are being posed by journalists and others, and that we need clarity.
“I think it’s a really difficult situation for any government minister when you are pretty much leading the news on every front page this morning.”
When asked whether Zahawi should stand down, Nokes sad: “Nadhim should stand aside whilst this investigation is carrying on.
“There are great precedents of ministers who have been competent, hardworking – and Nadhim is a certainly a very talented politician but maybe he should temporarily recuse himself until this investigation is over.”
Policing minister Chris Philp was less decisive in his answers about Zahawi’s tax affairs.
Asked whether the prime minister found it acceptable for ministers to be “negligent in their tax affairs,” Philp said: “We’ve got this word ‘careless’ that has been put into the public domain.
“We don’t know exactly what it was that that carelessness represents.”
When pressed again about the scandal, he said: “You’re effectively inviting me to speculate on exactly what happened.
“I welcome the prime minister’s referral of this matter to the independent adviser on ministerial standards.
“I look forward to explaining the facts of this issue to Sir Laurie Magnus and his team.
“I am confident I acted properly throughout and look forward to answering any and all specific questions in a formal setting to Sir Laurie.”
Opposition parties are calling for Zahawi to be sacked. Lord Bob Kerslake, the former head of the Civil Service, told Sky News that the party chairman is in a “pretty perilous position” as several facts need clarifying – including the length of his tax investigation and what he told Rishi Sunak about it.
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward
(Picture credit: Richard Townshend: Creative Commons)