James cleverly managed to deflect awkward questions about a Tory colleague by saying he was out shopping on Saturday.
The foreign secretary was sent on Sunday to represent the government in media interviews amid a new round of scandals.
Tory Party Chairman Nadim Zahawi’s tax affairs and completely different allegations relating to loans to Boris Johnson were deftly questioned.
Zahavi is facing calls to step down over allegations that he tried to avoid tax and now has to pay it back as part of a multi-million pound settlement.
He insisted that the matter had been resolved and that all his tax matters were “up to date” when Rishi Sunak was appointed chairman of the Tory party in October.
However, opposition parties have called for an independent investigation as well as the publication of all of Zahawi’s correspondence with HMRC.
Pressed on the controversy on Sunday, Clever said he was unable to answer as he was carrying out his duties as foreign secretary and was “doing some shopping”.
He told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuensberg programme: “I spent the whole of last week in the United States and Canada.
“I arrived back in the UK on an overnight flight on Friday morning before going through Friday to connect with my constituents and get a bit of rest and do some shopping on Saturday.”
He added: “It is up to Nadim himself to decide how much detail to keep in the public domain.”
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”.
In a statement, he said: “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.”
(Tags to translate) Boris Johnson