Rishi Sunak vows to crack down on sleaze and restore ‘integrity’ after Zahawi sacking

Rishi Sunak vows to crack down on sleaze and restore ‘integrity’ after Zahawi sacking

Rishi Sunak has vowed to crack down on the filth in government and restore “integrity” after sacking Nadhim Zahawi over his tax affairs.

The Prime Minister said he made a “swift decision” to sack the Tory leader after his ethics adviser found “serious” breaches of the ministerial code more than six months later The Independent revealed an HMRC inquiry.

Speaking at the NHS hospital in County Durham, Mr Sunak said he acted “quite decisively” in ordering the inquest into Sir Laurie Magnus after it was revealed Mr Zahawi had paid a £1million fine to HMRC.

Asked why so many top Tories have struggled to abide by the rules, Mr Sunak said: “The things that happened before I became prime minister I can’t change – I think you can hold me accountable for that, how I deal with the things that arise under my watch.”

The Prime Minister said: “As you saw with Nazhim Zahawi, I asked the independent adviser to look into this immediately and acted immediately on his findings. That should give you some confidence that these things are important to me.”

“I will take all necessary steps to restore integrity to politics,” added Mr Sunak, telling the audience of NHS staff and journalists: “Integrity is really important to me.”

Mr Sunak has been dogged by sleazy claims in recent days and his Deputy Prime Minister Gavin Williamson is still under investigation over bullying allegations.

Senior Tory MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown – treasurer of the party’s powerful 1922 committee – said Mr Zahawi should now consider giving up his Stratford-Upon-Avon seat.

Sir Geoffrey told BBC 5 Live: “I think the best result would be if Nadhim said he doesn’t want to stand. I’m sure he will think very carefully about his future in politics over the next few weeks.”

The Lib Dems have called on Mr Zahawi to resign, saying he is no longer “fit” to represent his constituents in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The party has also written to Mr Sunak, urging him to remove the Conservative whip from Mr Zahawi and calling for an investigation into the ex-Chancellor’s legal threats against media and activists.

Labor has accused Mr Sunak of building a “rogue gallery” of ministers – noting that Home Secretary Suella Braverman was found to have flouted Ministers Code by flouting safety rules.

Anneliese Dodds – who has accused the Tories of “drowning in the dirt” – told BBC Radio 4 today Programme, her party have written to the Prime Minister to ask when he found out about the HMRC inquiry into the former Tory leader.

She said: “We also have a very senior minister who broke safety rules, we also have allegations of bullying against a senior minister. This seems to be a case of Rishi Sunak putting his party’s interests ahead of the country’s interests.”

That’s what the allies of the ex-chancellor said The audience that he had told Tom Scholar, then Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, about both the HMRC investigation and the fine paid in September 2022.

They also claim his ministerial interest register was up to date in September, although Sir Laurie’s report says he had not updated it until earlier this month. The register has not been published since May 2022.

Mr Zahawi was said to be “angry” at his dismissal by Mr Sunak The timesand is considering a formal response to the details set out in the Ethics Advisor’s report.

But Mr Sunak’s official spokesman dismissed the idea that any government official knew of a September punishment. “The criminal offense was only determined at a later date. As the [ethics adviser] made clear [Mr Zahawi] did not disclose the details of the fine … until January.”

Rishi Sunak speaks at County Durham Hospital (PA) on Monday

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister promised his emergency response plan will bring “the largest and fastest improvement in emergency wait times in NHS history”.

But Mr Sunak was forced to defend dropping the NHS target of responding to heart attacks and strokes within 18 minutes this year. When asked about ambulance wait times, the Prime Minister said “fingers crossed” that there will already have been improvements since December.

He said: “Of course it’s not good enough, of course – my goodness – what happened in December wasn’t great. We’re going to get back to 30 minutes later this year and then go back to pre-pandemic levels after that, I’d say that’s ambitious.”

The promise of thousands more hospital beds and 800 new ambulances is at the heart of a new plan the Government hopes will provide emergency and emergency care after a difficult winter marked by dire warnings about the severe pressure the NHS is facing. was shaped, will improve.

However, Mr Sunak has been warned that the scale of the challenge facing the NHS cannot be resolved without addressing funding and staffing.

Patricia Marquis, Principal of the Royal College of Nursing for England, said: “The real problem is the lack of staff. Rollaway beds are only safe if there are enough caregivers to care for the patients in them. And because of the staffing crisis, existing services are insecure.”

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