Even Conservative voters think Zahawi should quit over tax scandal
Zahawi: ‘Unsustainable’ to stay amid investigation says Berry
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Almost two-thirds of voters (62 percent) believe that Conservative Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi should quit the government after being caught up in a major tax scandal according to exclusive polling for Express.co.uk by Techne UK. The findings pile further pressure on to the senior member of the government who last year became the first Chancellor of the Exchequer to be under investigation for his tax affairs while serving in the Treasury.
The findings of the survey of 1,624 voters taken this week come after Techne UK’s tracker poll for Express.co.uk revealed that even Conservatives are more likely to back calls for him to quit with 44 percent saying he should go and 42 percent supporting him remaining in the government.
But overall less than one in five voters (19 perceny) support Mr Zahawi, who was a millionaire businessman who founded the YouGov polling company before becoming the MP for Stratford upon Avon and then climbing up the ministerial ladder.
Boris Johnson made him vaccine minister where he helped deliver the rollout of the vaccine programme which ended the Covid pandemic before promoting him to Education Secretary.
After Rishi Sunak quit, Mr Johnson made Mr Zahawi Chancellor of the Exchequer in the last weeks of his government when it also emerged HMRC was investigating his tax affairs.
Despite the cloud hanging over him, Zahawi stayed on in Liz Truss’ 48-day government and then was made chairman by Rishi Sunak.
The row centres on a tax bill over the sale of shares in YouGov – the polling firm he founded – worth an estimated £27 million and which were held by Balshore Investments, a company registered offshore in Gibraltar.
Zahawi claimed 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.
He has also insisted he is “confident” he has “acted properly throughout”.
But a different light was shed on the issue by HMRC chief executive Jim Harra.
He told MPs on the powerful Public Accounts Committee that he did not believe it was “an innocent error”.
Mr Harra said: “I am not commenting on any particular person’s affairs but carelessness is a concept in tax law.
“It can be relevant to how many back years that we can assess and it can be relevant to whether someone is liable to a penalty and if so, what penalty they will be liable to for an error in their tax affairs.
Mr Harra went on: “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.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has refused to not sack Mr Zahawi and ordered an independent investigation.
Meanwhile, his predecessor as Tory chairman, Jake Berry, said on Question Time last night that it was “not sustainable” for Zahawi to remain in office while the inquiry was ongoing.
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Sir Jake said: “Even though he’s a friend of mine I’m not going to allow that to distract from a view I’ve put forward consistently in relation to all these sorts of issues.
“The Government needs to find a mechanism for ministers and MPs who are under investigation in this way to step aside to clear their name and then to come back into government if that is appropriate.
“I think from Nadhim, the great individual that he is, that would be the right thing to do now.
“I applaud Rishi Sunak for fast forwarding this investigation that we learned this week will be concluded in around 10 days.
“But I do think it’s unsustainable for a minister to stay in his post while this investigation goes on, including other ministers who are also under investigation.
“Not least because we have learned that when you want the public to have faith and trust in these investigations, one of the key things is for that individual to step away from power because it takes away a perception they have some influence or an ability to alter the investigation because they remain in that position of power.”
The scandal has hit the Tories in the polls with the Techne UK tracker for Express.co.uk revealing Labour’s lead has increased two points to 21 percent this week.
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