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by Louise Wilson
23 January 2023
Nicola Sturgeon: Nadhim Zahawi should resign

Nadhim Zahawi is facing an ethics probe over his tax affairs | Alamy

Nicola Sturgeon: Nadhim Zahawi should resign

Nicola Sturgeon has called for Nadhim Zahawi to resign over his tax affairs.

The First Minister said it was “untenable” for Zahawi to continue in his role as chair of the Conservative Party.

She also urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to remove him from office if Zahawi does not voluntarily quit.

It emerged over the weekend that Zahawi paid a penalty to HMRC for unpaid taxes while he was Chancellor.

Sunak this morning has instructed an independent ethics advisor to consider the matter, adding there were “clearly questions that need answering”.

The probe will be led by Sir Laurie Magnus, who was appointed as the Prime Minister’s Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests in December.

It is understood the dispute took place between July and September last year and involved a multi-million-pound sum.

The First Minister said: “The former Chancellor’s position is untenable. I think he should resign his current position as chair of the Conservative Party.

“It seems to be the case – and I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong here – but I think this is now beyond any real question that while he was Chancellor he settled a seven-figure tax bill with HMRC, which included a very significant penalty. Now that means, as far as I can see, that there must have been something untoward about his tax affairs to a very large tune in terms of the amount of money involved.”

She added: “He should resign his post and if he doesn’t do so, rather that kicking it into the long grass and instructing an inquiry as the Prime Minister has done this morning, I think the Prime Minister should remove him from office.”

Responding to the inquiry announcement, Zahawi said: “I welcome the Prime Minister’s referral of this matter to the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Standards… I am confident I acted properly throughout and look forward to answering any and all specific questions in a formal setting to Sir Laurie.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer said it was “obvious” that Zahawi couldn't remain in his post. He said: “The very idea that he can be discussing and negotiating his own tax affairs with the body he is supposed to be running – everyone knows it wrong. Clearly he isn't going to resign, so the Prime Minister needs to show some leadership. This is a test of the Prime Minister.”

The First Minister also pledged to publish her own tax returns.

Asked whether she was confident her ministers had paid the correct tax, she said: “Yes.”

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