TWO senior Tories have now called for MP Nadhim Zahawi to step down while an investigation into his tax affairs takes place.
Conservative peer Lord Haywood is the latest to call on the Stratford MP to consider his position after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak launched a probe into his tax affairs this week.
Lord Hayward said the Tory Party chairman should think about “standing aside” while parliament’s ethics watchdog investigates.
He told Sky news: “We don’t know what the timescales are for the inquiry, and I think that’s key.
“I think he should be considering whether he stands aside for the period of the inquiry.”
Lord Hayward’s comments come after Caroline Nokes, a former minister and the chairman of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, also called for Mr Zahawi to “stand aside” from his Cabinet role while the inquiry took place.
Ms Nokes continued that “there is a mantra… once you are the story then you have to go and I just genuinely think that this is too much of a problem for him”.
She told TalkTV: “I think the challenge for Nadhim is: Look at the front pages. He is leading too many of them and when you become the story it is a distraction from anything else that the government is trying to do.
“There are countless examples of good, competent Cabinet colleagues who have got themselves in a mess who have resigned quickly and come back, really in some instances, just a few months later and I think in order to get this cleared up Nadhim should stand aside and let the investigation run its course.”
Mr Sunak asked his ethics investigator Sir Laurie Magnus to look into the tax affairs of
Mr Zahawi after it emerged he paid a penalty to HMRC over unpaid tax while he was chancellor.
Mr Sunak said: “Integrity and accountability is really important to me and clearly in this case there are questions that need answering.”
He added that Mr Zahawi would remain Tory Party chairman during the investigation and had agreed to “fully cooperate”.
In a statement, Mr Zahawi said he welcomed the investigation and looked forward to “explaining the facts of this issue”.
Labour leader Keir Starmer called on the PM to sack Mr Zahawi.
He said: “I think it is obvious that Zahawi can’t stay as Tory party chair. It is obvious that he isn’t going to resign, and so the prime minister should show some leadership.”
Last July it was reported that an investigation had been launched into Mr Zahawi’s financial affairs – specifically whether the 55-year-old had avoided tax by using an offshore company called Baltimore Investments to hold shares in YouGov – a polling company he co-founded.
At the time, Mr Zahawi, who is reportedly worth more than £100 million, said the allegations of wrong doing were politically motivated “smears”.
Mr Zahawi had sought to end questions about his financial dealings by releasing a statement at the weekend in which he said there had been an error in his tax affairs, which had been accepted by HMRC as having been “careless and not deliberate”.