During a grilling on the finances of the Tory party chairman James Cleverly insisted that tax matters are a “private matter”.
The Foreign Secretary insisted that Nadeem Zahawi made a “negligent error” after it was revealed he owed a sum to HM Revenue and Customs in relation to a shareholding in YouGov.
Zahavi is under pressure over allegations that he tried to evade tax and has now been forced to pay it under a multimillion-pound settlement.
Cleverly said he did not know the size of the tax settlement with HMRC or whether Zahavi had paid a penalty.
“I don’t know more than his statement,” said tactfully.
Asked whether Zahavi should reveal more information, Smartly said: “People’s taxes are private matters. I know that as politicians, we are probably expected to have a higher level of disclosure than other people.” Is performed.
“Nadeem has issued a statement where he has admitted that he made a careless error, which has now been resolved.”
She also cleverly sidestepped questions about whether Zahavi had negotiated her tax settlement while chancellor, or whether Rishi Sunak knew when he appointed her party president.
“I’m not an investigator,” he said when told he was there to speak on behalf of the government.
Asked whether Zahawi would continue in his role until Wednesday, he said tactfully: “What else am I going to say other than yes, because he is a very effective minister.”
Zahavi, who joined Sunak’s cabinet, issued a statement to “clear up some confusion about my finances”.
However, the statement raised further questions, including whether Zahawi had negotiated the agreement on being chancellor and in charge of the country’s taxation.
The claims began to emerge when Zahavi was made chancellor by Boris Johnson last summer, after Cabinet Office officials alerted the then prime minister to the HMRC controversy.
Zahavi did not disclose the size of the settlement – reported to be an estimated £4.8 million including a 30% fine – or confirm whether he had paid the fine.
Tax lawyer Dan Needle, who is working to uncover the minister’s tax affairs, estimated he owed £3.7 million.
In an unusual move, Zahavi did not take founding shares when setting up YouGov, saying in his statement that his father had taken the shares “in exchange for some capital and his invaluable guidance”.
He continued: “Twenty-one years later, when I was being appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, questions were being raised about my tax affairs. I discussed this with the Cabinet Office at the time.
“Following discussions with HMRC, they agreed that my father was entitled to founder shares in YouGov, although they disagreed about the exact allocation. They concluded that this was a ‘negligent and not intentional’ error.
“So that I could focus on my life as a public servant, I decided to settle the matter and do what he said was due, which was the right thing to do.”
He said the matter had been resolved and that all his tax matters were “up to date” when Sunak was appointed chairman of the Tory party in October.
But the prime minister is facing questions over what he knew about the matter and when, as well as calls for Zahawi to be sacked.
Sunak’s promise of an “honesty” premiere was soured earlier this week after he was fined by police for not wearing a seatbelt and criticized for the allocation of leveling-up funding.
Downing Street said it had nothing to add to Zahawi’s statement and confirmed that the Prime Minister had confidence in him as Tory chairman.
Opposition parties have called for an independent investigation as well as the publication of all of Zahawi’s correspondence with HMRC.
Labor Party chair Anneliese Dodds said Sunak needed to remove Zahawi as party president, and added: “Zahavi still needs to explain when he found out about the investigation, and if he will be chancellor”. was and was in charge of our tax system at the time.
“He needs to explain why his legal representatives said his cases were updated last December so he could be fined £1 million this month.”
Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “Zahavi and his Conservative cabinet colleagues are arrogantly trying to brush this under the carpet.
“There are facts that still need to be established so there should be an independent inquiry to get to the bottom of this.”
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