Nazhim Zahawi news - live: HMRC suggests Tory chair did not make ‘innocent error’ as Sunak ‘livid’

There are “no innocent errors” when it comes to tax penalties, the head of HMRC has said during the ongoing dispute over Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs.

James Hara, HMRC’s chief executive, told MPs on Thursday: “There are no penalties for innocent errors in your tax affairs.

“So if you take reasonable care, but nevertheless make a mistake, whilst you will be liable for the tax and for interest if it’s paid late, you would not be liable for a penalty. But if your error was as a result of carelessness, then legislation says that a penalty could apply in those circumstances.”

The row surrounding Mr Zahawi centres on a tax bill over the sale of shares in YouGov, the polling firm Mr Zahawi founded, worth an estimated £27 million which were held by Balshore Investments, a company registered offshore in Gibraltar and linked to Mr Zahawi’s family.

Mr Zahawi has said that HMRC concluded there had been a “careless and not deliberate” error in the way the founders’ shares, which he had allocated to his father, had been treated.

Rishi Sunak – who has ordered his ethics adviser to investigate Mr Zahawi’s tax settlement – is said to be “livid” with his Cabinet minister over the saga, according to The Times.

The prime minister has not spoken to his party chairman since he revealed details of his settlement with HM Revenue and Customs at the weekend.

Key Points

  • HMRC: No ‘innocent errors’ in tax penalties

  • Sunak may not sack Zahawi in event of ministerial code breach

  • Starmer: Sunak is ‘hopelessly weak'

HMRC: No ‘innocent errors’ in tax penalties

11:33 , Katy Clifton

The head of HMRC has suggested Nadhim Zahawi has not made an "innocent" tax error.

James Harra told MPs on Thursday: "There are no penalties for innocent errors in your tax affairs."

It comes after Mr Zahawi paid a penalty to settle a £5m tax row, claiming the mistake was just deemed "careless and not deliberate".

Read more below:

No penalties for ‘innocent tax errors’, says HMRC boss amid Zahawi probe

Editorial: It is time for Rishi Sunak to show his ruthless side

14:30 , Eleanor Noyce

Editorial: Rishi Sunak needs to be very clear about when and whether he knew about Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs – and he needs to do it before much more damage is done.

Read more:

Editorial: It is time for Rishi Sunak to show his ruthless side

Nadhim Zahawi: 5 questions that need answering on tax affairs

14:10 , Eleanor Noyce

Rishi Sunak is under pressure after he resisted firing Nadhim Zahawi, despite the Conservative chairman’s admission he settled a tax dispute after an HMRC investigation.

The prime minister, who has ordered his ethics adviser to investigate whether Mr Zahawi broke ministerial rules, admitted there are “questions that need answering” as the saga rumbles on.

Some Tory MPs want Mr Zahawi to quit, though others have urged him to “get out” more tax details in an attempt to clear the matter up. The Independent takes a closer look at the big unanswered questions.

Political Correspondent Adam Forrest has more:

Nadhim Zahawi: 5 questions that need answering on tax affairs

HMRC has a “duty of confidentiality” not to report tax affairs of prominent politicians, says chief exec

13:40 , Eleanor Noyce

In a meeting with MPs on Thursday, HMRC chief executive Jim Harra was asked what the organisation would do if a prominent politician make a claim about their tax affairs that HMRC knows is “categorically false”.

Committee chairwoman Dame Meg Hillier asked Mr Harra whether HMRC would ever correct that.

He said such a position could be a matter of “frustration” but that HMRC had a duty of confidentiality.

“As a general rule, our duty of confidentiality would mean that if a taxpayer made a public statement about their affairs which we felt we did not agree with, that would not be a matter that we would correct.

“But again, we would look at things on a case-by-case basis and decide whether in that particular case, the issue was such that it was within our functions to disclose information, but as a general rule our default is that we don’t disclose, and it can be a source of frustration for HMRC because people will brief the press or perhaps brief MPs about their tax affairs.

“We will sometimes feel it’s not the full story, but we have to deal with it on the basis of their disclosure because we’re not in a position to disclose further information.”

Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs: A timeline of how the controversy played out

13:10 , Eleanor Noyce

Questions have swirled around Nadhim Zahawi and his tax affairs in recent weeks but the row came to a head in the last few days – piling pressure on the Tory chairman and forcing Rishi Sunak to address what he knew and when about the allegations.

The ongoing row centres on a tax bill over the sale of shares in YouGov, the polling firm Mr Zahawi founded. The shares, worth an estimated £27m, were held by Balshore Investments, a company registered offshore in Gibraltar and linked to Mr Zahawi’s family.

Dominic McGrath outlines how the controversy has played out:

Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs: A timeline of how the controversy played out

Why Rishi Sunak must sack Nadhim Zahawi

12:50 , Eleanor Noyce

The prime minister must tackle the dangerous perception the government still follows Johnson’s ‘one rule for us, another for everyone else’ mantra, says Andrew Grice.

Rishi Sunak will have to sack Nadhim Zahawi, the Conservative Party chair. The only route to Sunak being a successful prime minister is for him to be “not Boris Johnson”, and lift the shadow still being cast over the government by Johnson – who, after leaving office, has clearly not lost his love of being the centre of attention.

Johnson tried to bend the rules to protect friends such as Priti Patel, Owen Paterson, and Chris Pincher when they ran into trouble of their own making. It usually ended in tears, and certainly did when Johnson’s inaction over Pincher – the former deputy chief whip who resigned after groping allegations – hastened his own downfall.

Read more:

Why Rishi Sunak must sack Nadhim Zahawi | Andrew Grice

Downing Street wants Zahawi investigation concluded ‘as quickly as possible’, says spokesperson

12:40 , Eleanor Noyce

Downing Street said that the Prime Minister still has confidence in Nadhim Zahawi, but suggested that the inquiry would take place as quickly as possible.

Asked if Number 10 had asked the independent adviser on ministerial interests to expedite the investigation, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said: “We’ve said we would like it to be concluded as quickly as possible, but as I say, we haven’t put a time constraint on it. It is for him to establish the facts, for him to undertake the work as he sees fit, and then report back to the Prime Minister.”

The spokesman also indicated that the Prime Minister would support Mr Zahawi giving any approval HMRC needed to help the ethics inquiry.

“It’s an independent investigation. So I can’t comment on the process. It follows more broadly the Prime Minister expects participation with it,” the spokesman said.

He pointed reporters to Mr Zahawi’s previous statement on the issue, but said it was a matter for the independent adviser.

‘Offensive’ police code name for Nadhim Zahawi tax probe linked to tropical fish

12:30 , Eleanor Noyce

Friends of Nadhim Zahawi have questioned the decision by police to name their secret inquiry into his tax affairs after a spikey orange tropical fish.

The National Crime Agency, which alongside HMRC was involved in probing Tory chairman Mr Zahawi’s finances, gave the investigation the codename Operation Catalufa.

Up to 50cm in length and found off the coastline of Mexico, it is known as “Popeye Catalufa” because of its bulging eyes which are suited to its carnivorous and nocturnal lifestyle.

The NCA says codenames for their inquiries are chosen at random.

However, some allies of Mr Zahawi have questioned whether the “offensive and unfunny” name was a joke at his expense.

The Independent has seen confidential official correspondence where the term is used in relation to the cabinet minister.

Simon Walters reports:

‘Offensive’ police code name for Nadhim Zahawi tax probe linked to tropical fish

Downing Street declines to comment on HMRC chief remarks

12:15 , Eleanor Noyce

Downing Street declined to comment on remarks by HMRC chief executive Jim Harra at the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday, where he made clear that there are “no penalties for innocent errors” in an individual’s tax affairs.

A spokesman for the prime minister referred reporters to Rishi Sunak’s remarks in the Commons on Wednesday.

“The independent adviser will establish the facts and provide advice to the PM and then he will obviously consider next steps. I obviously can’t pre-empt that. It is right that the independent adviser is allowed to continue with that work,” he said.

Asked about speculation that the ethics inquiry into Nadhim Zahawi could be completed in as little as 10 says, the spokesman said: “We have said that we would like to see the work completed as quickly as possible.

“That remains the case but ultimately the timeline is a matter for the independent adviser. We wouldn’t put a time constraint on him.”

Sunak expected to be joined by Zahawi at Chequers away day

12:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Rishi Sunak is expected to be joined by Nadhim Zahawi when the Cabinet meets for an away day at the prime minister’s grace-and-favour country house.

The trip to Chequers in Buckinghamshire comes after days of headlines about Mr Zahawi’s tax affairs, with the Conservative Party chairman subject to an ethics probe.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said the result of that investigation, which the Prime Minister announced on Monday, could take just 10 days.

Mr Sunak ordered an investigation by Sir Laurie Magnus, his independent adviser on ministers’ interests, into whether Mr Zahawi broke ministerial rules over the estimated £4.8 million bill he settled with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) while he was chancellor.

Mr Stride, put to him on ITV’s Peston programme on Wednesday that rumours suggested the probe could be done within 10 days, said it “wouldn’t be untypical” for Sir Laurie to operate in that timeframe.

He added: “I can’t be drawn on an arrangement of which I don’t know all the details.

“But the good news is that we will, in around it sounds like ten days’ time or thereabouts, hear from the ethics adviser, who will report to the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister will then have the facts and be able to make exactly those judgments.”

HMRC to help “in any way we possibly can” with ethics inquiry into Zahawi

11:53 , Eleanor Noyce

Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee, HMRC chief executive Jim Harra said officials would help “in any way we possibly can” with the ethics inquiry into Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs.

Mr Harra said that he could not comment on an individual’s tax affairs, but signalled that HMRC could potentially offer a more public comment on a minister’s tax affairs under certain circumstances.

He told MPs: “Taxpayers can consent for HMRC to share details of their tax affairs with other people and that’s normal, for example, when they have an agent. However, it would still not be normal for HMRC to publicly comment on someone’s tax affairs even if they had said that it was OK for us to do so.

“Our requirement not to disclose information publicly sits whether a taxpayer is relaxed about it or not relaxed about it.”

Giving the example of MPs and constituents, he said: “Normally, if a taxpayer gives us consent to speak to someone about their tax affairs, then that’s what we would do.

Asked if a minister, or Mr Zahawi, granted permission to HMRC to discuss their tax affairs with the committee, he said: “It would not be normal for me to account to this committee for a person’s tax affairs, but if there are general issues about how we manage tax and I’ve got the ability to be disclosive that’s obviously something I would take advantage of.

“If we are asked by the independent adviser on ministerial interests to help with the inquiry, we will do so in any way we possibly can.”

‘Livid’ Sunak refuses to speak to Zahawi after tax row

11:49 , Eleanor Noyce

Rishi Sunak is said to be “livid” with Nadhim Zahawi as the fallout of the party chairman’s tax affairs continues.

The prime minister has not spoken to his party chairman since he revealed details of his settlement with HM Revenue and Customs at the weekend, it has been reported.

He is said to be frustrated that his colleague initially failed to disclose that he had paid a penalty for tax avoidance as part of an estimated £4.7 million settlement.

An ally of Mr Sunak told The Times: “Rishi is trying to do the right thing in terms of process but he’s livid.

Thomas Kingsley reports:

‘Livid’ Sunak refuses to speak to Zahawi after tax row

HMRC does not offer a “tax-service advice to ministers”, says chief executive

11:44 , Eleanor Noyce

Meeting with a cross-party committee on Thursday morning, HMRC chief executive Jim Harra told the Public Accounts Committee that HMRC does not offer bespoke advice to ministers on tax.

“HMRC does not give people tax advice; that is for them to get for themselves,” Mr Harra said.

He said HMRC gives all taxpayers guidance and that applies equally to ministers.

“We don’t offer a tax-advice service to ministers, just as we wouldn’t to general taxpayers.”

11:30 , Katy Clifton

Good morning, we are resuming our live politics updates for the day.

Wednesday 25 January 2023 22:34 , Sam Rkaina

We’re pausing our coverage of Nadhim Zahawi for the day but keep checking independent.co.uk for the latest updates.

Matt Hancock ‘assaulted on London Underground’ as man arrested

Wednesday 25 January 2023 22:00 , Emily Atkinson

A man has been arrested on suspicion of assaulting former health secretary Matt Hancock on the London Underground.

The incident took place at Westminster Underground station on Tuesday morning, British Transport Police said.

A 61-year-old man remains in custody, on suspicion of common assault and a public order offence.

My colleague Jane Dalton has more:

Matt Hancock ‘assaulted on London Underground’ as man arrested

Politics explained: What is behind the row over asylum hotels?

Wednesday 25 January 2023 21:30 , Emily Atkinson

Britain’s asylum process is in the spotlight once more, as The Independent reveals applicants cannot be told their status until they are out of ad-hoc hotel accommodation.

Why are asylum seekers living in hotels? Sean O’Grady asks.

What is behind the row over asylum hotels?

The full exchange: Stephen Flynn confronts Rishi Sunak over Tory sleaze - watch

Wednesday 25 January 2023 21:00 , Emily Atkinson

ICYMI...

No deadlines on EU talks with NI, says Heaton-Harris

Wednesday 25 January 2023 20:30 , Emily Atkinson

The UK is not setting any deadlines on its talks with the EU to resolve issues with Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol, Chris Heaton-Harris has said.

The Northern Ireland Secretary said putting a time limit on negotiations between London and Brussels would potentially lead to them unravelling.

In an interview with BBC NI, the Cabinet minister was asked about the chances of a resolution emerging before April.

“I’m a glass half-full person, I really do think we can find solutions to these problems,” he said.

“But we haven’t been setting any deadlines whatsoever in these talks, because it’s proven in the past to be one sure-fire way of making things unravel pretty quickly.

“And we’re also not commenting on the content of any talks with the European Union, because that equally has the potential to unravel them.

“So when we get closer to a solution, I’m hopeful we can, then I’ll start talking about it slightly more.”

Coffey says she wants to beat 2050 sewage target

Wednesday 25 January 2023 20:00 , Emily Atkinson

The environment secretary has said she wants sewage to stop being pumped into waterways “more quickly” than the current target of 2050.

Therese Coffey admitted to peers that the practice of releasing storm overflows containing wastewater into rivers and seas is “not acceptable” and she would support accelerating progress if it did not have a “massive” impact on household bills.

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

She confirmed that the government is not investing in upgrading water sewage systems, with a “consumer bill-driven” funding model being used to finance new work.

The comments came after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was accused of leaving consumers “up shit creek” due a lack of investment in the national sewage prevention scheme.

‘Now clear Russia is on the back foot,’ Sunak says

Wednesday 25 January 2023 19:30 , Emily Atkinson

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has said there was a window of opportunity for international partners to speed up efforts to support Ukraine in its conflict against Russia.

“The prime minister said it was now clear Russia was on the back foot, and there was a window for international partners to accelerate efforts to secure lasting peace for Ukraine,” No 10 said in a statement after he spoke to the leaders of the United States, Germany, France and Italy.

“All the leaders welcomed the strong coordination of military supplies and reflected on the collective international action across the spectrum in support of Ukraine.”

No 10 forced to say Rishi Sunak has never paid a tax penalty amid Nadhim Zahawi row

Wednesday 25 January 2023 19:00 , Emily Atkinson

More now on No 10’s admission over Mr Sunak’s tax affairs:

Downing Street has been forced to say Rishi Sunak has never paid a tax penalty in the wake of the Nadhim Zahawi affair.

The Prime Minister’s press secretary initially insisted that Mr Sunak’s taxes were “confidential”, despite his pledge to publish his return shortly.

But Labour added to Mr Sunak’s woes by saying Sir Keir Starmer has never paid a fine to the taxman.

Our Whitehall editor Kate Devlin reports:

No 10 forced to say Rishi Sunak has never paid a tax penalty amid Nadhim Zahawi row

Sunak has never paid penalty to HMRC, says No 10

Wednesday 25 January 2023 18:30 , Emily Atkinson

Rishi Sunak has never paid a penalty to HMRC, Downing Street has said after earlier refusing to answer questions on the subject.

A No 10 spokeswoman said: “The prime minister has never paid a penalty to HMRC.”

Brexit caused UK’s creative industries to lose £160m in funding, analysis reveals

Wednesday 25 January 2023 18:05 , Emily Atkinson

Britain’s creative industries are missing out on more £160m in EU funding because of Brexit, new analysis shared with The Independent suggests.

It follows the Conservative government’s decision to pull the UK out of the EU’s Creative Europe project – which helps fund the continent’s arts and culture sector – during the Brexit negotiations.

Brussels recently increased the budget of its flagship cultural programme by 66 per cent to £2.1bn for the period running up until 2027.

Adam Forrest reports:

Brexit caused £160m loss to UK creative industries, analysis reveals

Army to be drafted in if firefighters vote to strike

Wednesday 25 January 2023 17:14 , Emily Atkinson

The military is being called in to cover for an expected strike by firefighters, despite warnings that troops should not be treated as “spare capacity” for a wave of industrial action by public services.

The Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) is balloting more than 33,000 firefighters and control room staff after they rejected a “derisory” 5 per cent increase, with the vote closing on 30 January.

Ministers are so certain that firefighters will strike that preparations have already started to organise the deployment of British Army personnel and private contractors.

Our home affairs editor Lizzie Dearden reports:

Army to be drafted in if firefighters vote to strike

Labour calls for Sunak to be clear over any possible tax penalties

Wednesday 25 January 2023 16:45 , Emily Atkinson

Labour has said that Rishi Sunak should be clear over whether he has ever paid a tax penalty like Tory chairman Nadhim Zahawi did.

Downing Street has so far declined to say, calling an individual’s tax arrangements “confidential”.

Asked if Mr Sunak should answer the question, a Labour spokesperson said: “Yes.”

Rishi Sunak will sack Nadhim Zahawi if rule breach found, say Tory MPs

Wednesday 25 January 2023 16:25 , Emily Atkinson

Rishi Sunak will sack Conservative chairman Nadhim Zahawi if he is judged to have “fallen foul” of the ministerial code by No 10’s ethics adviser, Tory trade minister Andrew Bowie has said.

Tory MPs told The Independent they believe that Mr Sunak was “increasingly irritated” with Mr Zahawi and was preparing to fire him if Sir Laurie Magnus’ probe into the tax saga found any wrongdoing.

Appearing to distance himself from his cabinet minister at PMQs, Mr Sunak suggested it would have been “politically expedient” to have sacked the Tory chair – but still wanted the ethics adviser’s probe to play out.

Adam Forrest reports:

Rishi Sunak will sack Nadhim Zahawi if rule breach found, say Tory MPs

Labour calls for ‘quick' completion of Zahawi report

Wednesday 25 January 2023 16:05 , Emily Atkinson

Labour has called on the ethics investigation into Nadhim Zahawi to be carried out and completed as “quickly as possible”.

The party has already urged the PM to sack the Tory chairman, with Sir Keir Starmer grilling Rishi Sunak on the issue in the Commons on Wednesday.

A party spokesman said that now an investigation is under way, “like everyone, we just think it should conclude as quickly as possible”.

Sunak wants Zahawi report in 10 days, says Peston

Wednesday 25 January 2023 15:50 , Emily Atkinson

Rishi Sunak will receive the report into Nadhim Zahwai’s tax affairs in ten days, according to ITV’s political editor Robert Peston.

According to No 10, the inquiry by new ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus will focus on Mr Zahawi’s ministerial declarations but it could extend to his prior tax arrangement and whether he lied to the media.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

PM promises legislation to build new Holocaust memorial centre

Wednesday 25 January 2023 15:35 , Emily Atkinson

A new law will allow a Holocaust memorial centre to be built next to parliament, Rishi Sunak has told MPs.

The prime minister said the government would take action after campaigners won a legal battle to quash planning permission for the national memorial in Westminster.

Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day on Friday, Mr Sunak paid tribute at Prime Minister’s Questions to the "extraordinary courage" of survivors, including 94-year-old Arek Hersh, who was watching proceedings in the Commons.

"This will legislate to build the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre next to Parliament so the testimonies of survivors like Arek will be heard at the heart of our democracy by every generation to come."

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

Gove: spirit of Thatcherism can level up north

Wednesday 25 January 2023 15:20 , Matt Mathers

Levelling up minister Michael Gove has promised to harness the “spirit” of Thatcherism to help the North of England.

Mr Gove cited the “active” government of Margaret Thatcher and her 1980s transformation of the London docklands as inspiration for levelling up – the plan to narrow economic and social disparities between the North and South.

He was speaking at the Convention of the North, a major gathering of political and business leaders in Manchester.

Pat Hurst has the story:

Spirit of Thatcherism can help level up the North, says Gove

Zahawi to attend Chequers away day

Wednesday 25 January 2023 15:00 , Emily Atkinson

Nadhim Zahawi will join the rest of Rishi Sunak’s cabinet for an away day at Chequers tomorrow, our Whitehall editor Kate Devlin reports from the post-PMQs huddle.

More on this when we have it.

Downing Street dodges question on whether Sunak has ever paid tax penalty

Wednesday 25 January 2023 14:44 , Matt Mathers

Downing Street has repeatedly declined to say whether Rishi Sunak has ever paid a tax penalty like Tory chairman Nadhim Zahawi did.

The prime minister’s press secretary insisted Mr Sunak’s tax affairs are "confidential", even as he prepares to publish his tax return in an attempt at transparency.

Mr Sunak’s finances are under renewed scrutiny after it emerged Mr Zahawi settled an estimated £4.7 million bill with HMRC while he was chancellor.

Sunak will sack Zahawi if he broke rules, says Tory minister

Wednesday 25 January 2023 14:22 , Adam Forrest

Tory trade minister Andrew Bowie told BBC Politics Live that Mr Sunak would fire the Tory chairman if the ethics adviser found he had breached ministerial code rules.

“If [Mr Zahawi] is found to have fallen foul in this report, the prime minister will of course sack him,” the minister told BBC Politics Live.

Mr Bowie added: “But we need to let the process run its course … and the prime minister take a decision on the basis of that.”

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Zahwai must explain HMRC penalty over tax affairs, Tory MP says

Wednesday 25 January 2023 14:14 , Emily Atkinson

A Conservative MP has called on Nadhim Zahawi to explain why he was required by HMRC to pay a penalty in relation to his tax affairs.

Nigel Mills said an investigation by Rishi Sunak’s ethics adviser into whether the Conservative party chairman broke the ministerial code will not end the questions he is facing.

“I just don’t see an investigation into the ministerial code resolves this because if he is cleared by that, that won’t stop people asking questions about what on earth happened,” Mr Mills told the BBC Radio 4’s World at One.

“The guy that is doing the investigation reports to the prime minister and the prime minister makes decisions. It is not a public process.

“If that finds there was no breach of the ministerial code that is not going to be an end of this matter. I think the only way to resolve this is to make clear what the situation was that gave rise to a significant penalty.

“If that can be explained we can all move on. If it can’t, then clearly his position won’t be tenable.”

Sunak ‘fully focused’ on priorities

Wednesday 25 January 2023 14:05 , Emily Atkinson

Rishi Sunak remains “fully focused” on his priorities despite the uproar over Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs, Downing Street has insisted.

Mr Sunak’s press secretary said: “Obviously the prime minister is fully focused on delivering the five promises he made to the country.”

Sunak may not sack Zahawi in event of ministerial code breach

Wednesday 25 January 2023 13:55 , Emily Atkinson

Rishi Sunak may not sack Nadhim Zahawi even if he is found to have breached the ministerial code, Downing Street has suggested.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “Recently the code was updated so it’s no longer a binary decision.”

PM disappointed with Zahawi?

Wednesday 25 January 2023 13:47 , Emily Atkinson

No 10 declined to say whether the prime minister was disappointed with Nadhim Zahawi, if he had not revealed originally the full details of his tax affairs.

Mr Sunak’s press secretary said: “I am not going to comment on the PM’s emotional state.”

“A lot of what we understand is via media reports, and some of it quite speculative, that is why it is right that the independent adviser establishes the facts before any further action is taken.”

More Zahawi surprises to come?

Wednesday 25 January 2023 13:43 , Emily Atkinson

Downing Street was unable to say whether Rishi Sunak was confident no more damaging surprises would emerge about Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs.

The prime minister’s press secretary said: “I don’t think any of us can predict what may come up but I think he’s confident now he’s put the right process in place and the independent adviser is looking into it.”

No 10 has indicated Mr Sunak received assurances about Mr Zahawi’s tax affairs before defending him at PMQs last Wednesday.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Pressed over what happened at the start of last week before Mr Sunak went on to say Mr Zahawi had addressed the matter “in full”, the press secretary said: “I wouldn’t get into private conversations... the prime minister was given assurances that it had been dealt with prior to what he said in the House on Wednesday.”

But pressed further she would not say whether the assurances were different to the ones he received at the time he appointed Mr Zahawi as a minister.

No 10 swerves questions over Sunak’s tax affairs

Wednesday 25 January 2023 13:38 , Emily Atkinson

Downing Street has repeatedly declined to say whether Rishi Sunak has ever paid a tax penalty, as with Tory chairman Nadhim Zahawi.

Instead, the PM’s press secretary said: “You wouldn’t expect me to get into the prime minister’s tax affairs, they are confidential.

“The tax affairs of an individual, irrespective of who they are, are confidential.”

Mr Sunak will, however, publish his tax return “in due course”.

The press secretary would not commit to the publishing of six years of the PM’s tax returns, as David Cameron did.

No 10 address Sunak’s response to Zahawi tax settlement

Wednesday 25 January 2023 13:29 , Emily Atkinson

Rishi Sunak was only using the information he knew at the time when he told MPs last week that Nadhim Zahawi had “already addressed this matter in full and there’s nothing more that I can add”, No 10 says.

Mr Sunak faced questions in the Commons on Wednesday about the Tory Party chairman’s tax affairs.

The prime minister’s press secretary was asked by reporters if Mr Sunak would correct the record, referring to his previous comments on the controversy.

She said: “Additional facts have come to light since the PM said that which have been put in the public domain by the party chairman himself.”

Pressed again, she said: “The prime minister can only go off what he knows.”

‘Scotland considers Tories to be a parcel of rogues'

Wednesday 25 January 2023 13:18 , Emily Atkinson

Speaking during today’s session of PMQs, SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn told MPs: “Is it little wonder that people in Scotland may well just consider the Tory party to be a parcel of rogues?”

He said: “After all, when there was questions about the Home Secretary... and concerns about her role in relation to national security, he chose to back her.

“Now the chair of the Tory Party, he’s choosing to back him despite a £5 million penalty from HMRC, and of course he’s seeking to protect the former prime minister despite his cosy financial relationship with the chair of the BBC.

“Is it little wonder that people in Scotland may well just consider the Tory party to be a parcel of rogues.”

Rishi Sunak replied: “What I am standing up for is proper due process, that’s why we have an independent adviser, it’s right that the independent adviser conducts his investigation. That’s how we will ensure accountability and that’s what I will deliver.”

‘I stand by my values'

Wednesday 25 January 2023 12:54 , Matt Mathers

Starmer asks PM if he’s starting to think “is this job too big for him?”

PM says the difference between him and Labour leader is that “I stand by my values and principles even when it is difficult”.

He says that when he disagreed “fundamentally” with the previous PM “I resigned” from the government.

Sunak reminds Starmer that he served in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet for “four long years” when anti-semitism “ran rife”.

He says that’s what is “weak”.

‘Hopelessly weak'

Wednesday 25 January 2023 12:39 , Matt Mathers

Keir Starmer today accused Rishi Sunak of being “hopelessly weak” for failing to sack Nadhim Zahawi as the two leaders clashed at PMQs over the Tory chairman’s ongoing controversy over his tax settlement with the HMRC.

The Labour leader accused Mr Sunak, who this week ordered his ethics adviser to investigate Mr Zahawi’s tax affairs, of “overseeing chaos”, saying it was “fairly obvious” that the former chancellor should step aside.

The Prime Minister rebuffed Mr Starmer’s questions on the saga, insisting that the questions arose before he was PM. Former chancellor Mr Zahawi did not appear to be present in the Commons as the two leaders met.

Today’s session came after more senior Conservative figures called on Mr Zahawi to resign his role as party chair.

Influential peer Lord Hayward became the latest Tory to say Mr Zahawi should step aside, at least until the inquiry concludes – warning that the saga could help “flatline” Tory popularity ahead of the local elections.

Zahawi missing from front bench

Wednesday 25 January 2023 12:35 , Matt Mathers

Sunak says the opposition “can’t have it both ways”.

He says he was urged by Labour to appoint an ethics adviser...now they are complaining that he is doing his job.

In other developments from the session, Zahawi was notably missing from the government front bench.

 (Supplied)
(Supplied)

‘Proper due process'

Wednesday 25 January 2023 12:32 , Matt Mathers

Sunak accuses Starmer of reading from “prepared sheets”, adding: “he should listen to what I say”.

PM repeats his comments saying that he was only made aware of the additional details of Zahawi’s case when they appeared in the media.

He goes on to say that the “politically expedient” thing to do would be for him to say that the matter would be resolved by “Wednesday afternoon”.

“But I believe in proper due process”, PM adds.

 (Parliament Live)
(Parliament Live)

‘What changed?'

Wednesday 25 January 2023 12:28 , Matt Mathers

Labour leader says that, to anybody watching, it is “fairly obvious” that someone who “seeks to avoid tax” can’t also be in charge of tax.

“Yet for some reason the prime minister can’t bring himself to say that,” he adds.

Starmer then points out that Sunak told the Commons last week that Zahawi had addressed the matter in full and that there was “nothing to add.”

Since the PM says there are now questions that need answering, Starmer asks him: “what changed?”

Sunak: I obviously can’t pre-judge outcome of probe

Wednesday 25 January 2023 12:24 , Matt Mathers

Sunak adds that as soon as he found out additional details about Zahawi’s taxes he ordered his ethics adviser to investigate.

“I obviously can’t pre-judge the outcome” of the probe, he adds, but it is “right” that we fully investigate to establish all the facts.

Starmer responds that Sunak “avoided the question”.

‘Completely clear'

Wednesday 25 January 2023 12:21 , Matt Mathers

Sunak says he wishes to make his position on this matter “completely clear”.

To laughs and jeers from MPs on the Labour side, PM says the issues in the case occurred before he was in No 10.

He said that the usual processes took place when Zahawi was appointed cabinet minister without portfolio.

“No issues were raised with me”, he adds.

Starmer moves on to Zahawi

Wednesday 25 January 2023 12:18 , Matt Mathers

Starmer now moves on to Nadhim Zahawi’s tax arrangements.

He asks the PM if agrees that any politician who seeks to avoid paying the “taxes they owe in this country” is not fit to be in charge of people’s money.

‘Truly terrible crime'

Wednesday 25 January 2023 12:13 , Matt Mathers

Sunak responds saying this was a “truly terrible crime” and that the failings in the case were “serious” and “unacceptable”.

He says there were failings in the risk assessment of her killer, Jordan McSweeney, who was classed as “medium” rather than high risk.

PM says “immediate” steps are being to address the failings.

‘Brilliant young woman'

Wednesday 25 January 2023 12:10 , Matt Mathers

Keir Starmer uses his first question to raise the case of Zara Aleena, who was raped and murdered while walking home in London.

He says she was a “brilliant young woman” - a trainee lawyer with a “bright future”.

Starmer says her killer was free to walk the streets when he carried out his attack.

He asks the PM if he accepts the findings of a recent report saying that probation services missed opportunities to prevent her murder.

Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs: A timeline of how the controversy played out

Wednesday 25 January 2023 12:10 , Matt Mathers

Questions have swirled around Nadhim Zahawi and his tax affairs in recent weeks but the row came to a head in the last few days – piling pressure on the Tory chairman and forcing Rishi Sunak to address what he knew and when about the allegations.

The ongoing row centres on a tax bill over the sale of shares in YouGov, the polling firm Mr Zahawi founded. The shares, worth an estimated £27m, were held by Balshore Investments, a company registered offshore in Gibraltar and linked to Mr Zahawi’s family.

Here is how the controversy has played out:

PMQs kicking off shortly

Wednesday 25 January 2023 11:55 , Matt Mathers

Prime Minister’s Questions will kick off shortly, with Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer going head-to-head in the Commons chamber.

Starmer is likely to tackle the PM about the tax affairs of Nadhim Zahawi - a story that has dominated the political agenda for the past few days.

MPs are filing into the chamber as we speak. We’ll bring you updates throughout the session. You can also watch the exchanges live on our YouTube channel:

Live: Women and equalities committee faces questions in the Commons

Nadhim Zahawi: 5 questions that need answering on tax affairs

Wednesday 25 January 2023 11:45 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak is under pressure after he resisted firing Nadhim Zahawi, despite the Conservative chairman’s admission he settled a tax dispute after an HMRC investigation.

The prime minister, who has ordered his ethics adviser to investigate whether Mr Zahawi broke ministerial rules, admitted there are “questions that need answering” as the saga rumbles on.

Some Tory MPs want Mr Zahawi to quit, though others have urged him to “get out” more tax details in an attempt to clear the matter up. The Independent takes a closer look at the big unanswered questions.

Our politics correspondent Adam Forrest reports:

Nadhim Zahawi: 5 questions that need answering on tax affairs

Rishi Sunak welcomes ‘allies and friends’ sending tanks to Ukraine

Wednesday 25 January 2023 11:32 , Matt Mathers

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has welcomed moves by “Nato allies and friends” to send battle tanks to Ukraine.

His comments came after Germany confirmed it would send Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv.

“The right decision by NATO Allies and friends to send main battle tanks to Ukraine. Alongside Challenger 2s, they will strengthen Ukraine’s defensive firepower,” Mr Sunak said.

“Together, we are accelerating our efforts to ensure Ukraine wins this war and secures a lasting peace.”

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Which Tories are calling on Zahawi to quit?

Wednesday 25 January 2023 11:02 , Matt Mathers

More senior Conservative figures have called on Nadhim Zahawi to resign his role as party chair amid the ongoing controversy over his tax settlement with the HMRC.

The prime minister, who has ordered his ethics adviser to investigate whether Mr Zahawi broke ministerial rules, is also under pressure to act, having admitted there are “questions that need answering”.

Who has called on Mr Zahawi to quit? Our politics correspondent Adam Forrest reports:

More senior Tory figures call on Nadhim Zahawi to quit

'Uncomfortable' PMQs if Zahawi doesn't quit, says ex-minister

Wednesday 25 January 2023 10:45 , Matt Mathers

Former Tory minister David Gauke told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was “hard to see how this doesn’t ultimately end in [Mr Zahawi’s] resignation”, Adam Forrest, our politics correspondent, reports.

He said it would be a “very uncomfortable” PMQs for Mr Sunak if he was still in post at 12pm.

It is widely expected that Labour leader Keir Starmer will use at least some of his questions during PMQs to tackle Sunak on the issue.

Zahawi should ‘consider his position’, says Tory peer

Wednesday 25 January 2023 10:25 , Matt Mathers

The influential Tory peer Lord Hayward said Mr Zahawi “should be considering whether he stands aside for the period of the inquiry” – warning that the saga could help “flatline” Tory popularity ahead of the local elections, Adam Forrest, our politics correspondent reports.

Lord Hayward, a Tory polling expert, told Sky News: “I think there is a difficulty where you are party chairman because you’re supposed to be out there motivating the campaigners in preparations for key local elections.”

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Whitehall officials were not aware of Zahawi tax dispute - report

Wednesday 25 January 2023 09:56 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak was not informed about Nadhim Zahawi’s tax dispute when he appointed him to the cabinet because Whitehall officials weren’t aware of it, it has been claimed.

Mr Zahawi, the cabinet minister without portfolio, was cleared by Whitehall officials for the Tory chairman role under Mr Sunak after he became prime minister.

But according to The Times, neither he nor Liz Truss - his predecessor - were informed about Mr Zahawi’s dispute with HMRC.

Mr Zahawi served as Liz Truss’s equalities minister during Ms Truss’s short stint in No 10 Downing Street. He briefly served as chancellor in the dying days of Boris Johnson’s government.

One government source suggested to The Times that Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, should have briefed both Mr Sunak and Ms Truss about the potential liability of keeping Zahawi in the cabinet.

But another said: "They didn’t know about the fine because HMRC didn’t tell them."

Sunak and Starmer to face off at crunch PMQs

Wednesday 25 January 2023 09:24 , Matt Mathers

The first two PMQs sessions of 2023 have largely followed the same pattern: Starmer attacking Sunak on public sector strikes and the state of the NHS and the PM hitting back by claiming that the Labour leader is opposed to the government’s anti-strike legislation because he’s in the pocket of unions.

Many of those disputes remain unresolved and with more walkouts planned in the weeks ahead, there is every chance Sunak could be tackled on industrial action by Starmer once again when the pair appear before MPs in the Commons later for round three.

But today’s exchanges in the chamber will almost certainly take on a different feel after the Labour leader was gifted additional ammunition in the form of a scandal over the tax affairs of Tory Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi, which shows absolutely no signs of dying down first thing Wednesday morning.

Read more here:

Inside Politics: Questions to the prime minister

Is Sunak about to dump Zahawi? Tory MPs say PM risks looking ‘indecisive’ over tax row

Wednesday 25 January 2023 09:21 , Matt Mathers

Is Rishi Sunak about to dump Nadhim Zahawi? The prime minister is facing a backlash from his own MPs over the decision to keep the Tory chairman in the cabinet despite ordering an investigation into his tax affairs.

No 10 appears to be hardening its line on the embattled former chancellor after new details of the tax scandal emerged.

Just a week ago the PM was defending Mr Zahawi in the Commons. But as pressure on Mr Sunak mounts, Downing Street declined to say he was confident Mr Zahawi had always been honest about his finances.

Kate Devlin, politics editor and Adam Forrest, politics correspondent, report:

Keeping Nadhim Zahawi in cabinet during tax probe is ‘insanity’ ex-minister warns

Tell us how much you owed the taxman, voters tell Zahawi

Wednesday 25 January 2023 09:16 , Matt Mathers

Almost two in three Britons want Conservative chairman Nadhim Zahawi to set out how much it took to settle his tax dispute with HMRC, a poll for The Independent has found.

Some 64 per cent of people – including 61 per cent of Tory voters – say Mr Zahawi should reveal exactly how much he handed over, according to the Savanta ComRes survey.

Our politics correspondent Adam Forrest reports:

Nadhim Zahawi: 5 questions that need answering on tax affairs

Re-cap: who is Nadhim Zahawi?

Wednesday 25 January 2023 09:13 , Matt Mathers

An Iraqi refugee who arrived in Britain aged nine with no English rose to No 11 Downing Street and propped up Boris Johnson’s ailing administration last summer, only to be hit by a tax scandal himself, my colleague Joe Sommerlad reports.

Read the full article here:

All you need to know about the under-fire Tory Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi

Wednesday 25 January 2023 09:11 , Matt Mathers

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live politics coverage.

We’ll be bringing you updates throughout the day as Nadhim Zahawi faces pressure to resign over a row about his tax arrangement.

Stay tuned for all the latest news and PMQs at midday.