Politics news - latest: Number 10 pushed on whether Rishi Sunak thinks Nadhim Zahawi told truth; BBC chairman to face MPs amid Boris Johnson loan claims (2023)

Key points
  • Nadhim Zahawi's job hangs by a thread as Rishi Sunak orders investigation into tax affairs|A summary of the story
  • Downing Street pushed on whether PM thinks Zahawi told him the truth
  • Watch: Zahawi refuses to comment on his political future
  • Ali Fortescue: PM's promise to lead government of 'integrity' seems a long time ago
  • Mhari Aurora:Pressure building from within party for Zahawi to resign
  • 'Three issues could merit resignation'
  • Listen:How will Sunak handle the latest Tory troubles?
  • BBC chairman to be questioned by MPs after denying misleading parliament over appointment amid Boris Johnson loan claims
  • The role of BBC chairman explained
  • Live reporting by Tim Baker

18:00:01

Nadhim Zahawi's tax controversy explained

Chief political correspondent Jon Craig explains the controversy surrounding Nadhim Zahawi's finances - and why there is mounting pressure for the former chancellor to resign.

Video produced by Jasmine Kaur, digital politics producer

17:30:01

Sophy Ridge on Sunday podcast: 'You're the journalist, not me' | James Cleverly and Sharon Graham

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly avoids answering questions on the latest 'sleaze' allegations to hit the Conservative Party - Boris Johnson's £800,000 loan and its links to the BBC chairman, and former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi's tax affairs.

Plus, general secretary of Unite the Union, Sharon Graham, accuses the government of lying about negotiating to end nurses' strikes.

Sophy Ridge is joined by the Daily Mirror's political editor, John Stevens, and show editor, Scott Beasley, to discuss both interviews.

Click to subscribe to the Sophy Ridge on Sunday podcast

17:10:01

How will Sunak handle the latest Tory troubles?

The prime minister has asked his independent ethics adviser to investigate Nadhim Zahawi, the Conservative Party chairman.

Sir Laurie Magnus will look at whether Mr Zahawi breached the ministerial code by settling tax issues with HMRC while he was chancellor. Mr Zahawi says it was a "careless and not deliberate" error.

That's on top of the two investigations around the appointment of Richard Sharp, the BBC chairman, after reports he helped Boris Johnson, the former prime minister, secure a loan worth up to £800,000.

One is by the commissioner for public appointments and will look at the process that led to Mr Sharp getting the job. He has also asked the BBC to review any potential conflicts of interest he might have.

The investigations came after Rishi Sunak was fined for not wearing a seatbelt.

On the Sky News Daily, Niall Paterson talks tochief political correspondent Jon Craig about the latest developments.

Click to subscribe to the Sky News Daily wherever you get your podcasts

16:50:01

Number 10 vows 'robust' age checks for asylum seekers after fatal stabbing

Downing Street hopes to put in place "robust" measures to determine the age of asylum seekers arriving in the UK following the conviction of an Afghan man.

Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai was found guilty on Monday of the murder of 21-year-old Thomas Roberts outside a Subway in Bournemouth, Dorset, in 2022.

The defendant, who arrived in the UK in December 2019, told authorities at the time that he was 16 - but it was determined at Salisbury Crown Court that his true age is 21.

Downing Street described the case as "shocking" and said it underlines the need for "robust age measurement measures".

A report by the Age Estimation Science Advisory Committee said existing age checks - which rely on interviews with social workers - could be supported by "biological age assessment".

That could include X-rays or MRI scans to determine the development of teeth and bones, although campaigners have questioned whether such methods are either ethical or reliable.

The prime minister's official spokesman said scientific checks are already in place in other countries and that the UK is now looking to follow suit.

"We are considering the report of the Age Estimation Science Advisory Committee on scientific methods to assess the age of asylum seekers - and resolve the age disputes - which are indeed in place in countries like Norway, Denmark and Sweden," the spokesman said.

"We are taking this issue very seriously and will come forward with further measures in due course."

16:36:46

Union 'wholeheartedly welcomes' decision to recall Royal Mail chief to parliament

As we reported earlier (see 3pm post), Simon Thompson, the chief executive of Royal Mail, has been summoned to parliament by a committee of MPs who say they have concerns that his previous evidence to them was not "wholly accurate".

The Communication Workers' Union has accused Mr Thompson of attacking their workers and hollowing out the Royal Mail amid a bitter industrial dispute between Royal Mail and the CWU.

Responding to the news he will appear before MPs again, the CWU said they "wholeheartedly welcomed" the decision.

"Politicians tasked by voters to conduct scrutinising work with the greatest possible knowledge and clarity have grave concerns about Simon Thompson’s evasive conduct," a spokesman said.

"These concerns are shared by millions of people, who need to know the facts from those who run the postal services they rely on, and deserve to be treated with the utmost seriousness."

Mr Thompson appeared in front of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee last week - an appearance you can read more abouthere.

During the hearing, he was warned several times about concerns from the MPs over the veracity and directness of his responses.

Writing today, the BEIS Committee chair Darren Jones said: "Following the session, I received a significant amount of correspondence from Royal Mail employees across the country, challenging some of the statements you made to the committee.

"The committee is now not confident that all the answers you gave during the session were wholly accurate.

"The committee has therefore decided to recall you to give further oral evidence at the earliest opportunity."

16:30:01

Nadhim Zahawi: What you need to know about the under-pressure Tory chair

He arrived in the UK aged 11, unable to speak a word of English - but after going on to hold some of the most powerful roles in the government, he is now under the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

This is what you need to know about Nadhim Zahawi as he faces pressure over his tax affairs:

16:11:07

BBC chair to be questioned by MPs in wake of Boris Johnson loan row

Richard Sharp, the chairman of the BBC, will appear before theDigital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee to face questions about the nature of his appointment.

A letter sent to Mr Sharp by the acting chair Damian Green on Tuesday summoned him to be questioned by the committee on 7 February.

It says: "The committee intends to cover the issues raised in your pre-appointment hearing and any developments since then."

Mr Sharp was given the job of BBC chair after allegedly helping former prime minister Boris Johnson to secure an £800,000 loan.

He has denied there was a conflict of interest - an assessment which he says was shared by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case.

Meanwhile, both the BBC and the commissioner for public appointments are now looking into Mr Sharp's appointment.

The PM's spokesman was today asked if Downing Street is comfortable there was no conflict of interest.

They said they were confident there was a rigorous appointment process, and that it was correctly followed.

You can read more here:

16:02:00

Labour shadow minister under investigation

By Jennifer Scott, political reporter

Labour shadow minister Alex Davies-Jones is being investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards over allegations of "paid advocacy".

Sky News understands it relates to a question the MP for Pontypridd & Taff Ely asked in the Commons in November, where she praised the work of the British Council and their team in Japan.

The organisation, which promotes British culture around the world, had covered the costs for her to visit the country at the end of October to see their work, totalling £2,947.60.

We understand Ms Davies-Jones declared the interest in line with what she believed to be the rules, but wasn't aware that the reference could not be made within six months of the trip.

She has self-referred to the commissioner and is understood to be cooperating fully with the investigation.

16:00:01

Around new 800 homes will be provided for rough sleepers in London, says Khan

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced funding for 800 new homes for rough sleepers and homeless young people in the capital.

The pledge came as he visited a Crisis at Christmas service in east London that has been extended during the cold snap, and met people who have recently been sleeping rough.

The mayor has been allocated around £75m for up to 800 new homes for Londoners who are rough sleepers with complex needs, and for homeless young people and those at risk of homelessness.

The announcement came as Mr Khan toured Crisis at Christmas in Newham on Tuesday.

Services typically end shortly after the new year, but for the second year in a row City Hall has partnered with charities Crisis and St Mungo's to continue the initiative over the coldest weeks of January.

Staff told the mayor how all of the beds available for rough sleepers had been filled, and that service users are often vulnerable, grappling with mental health difficulties or struggling with migration-related problems.

Mr Khan said: "On behalf of all Londoners, I also want to thank Crisis and St Mungo's for their tireless efforts supporting some of the most vulnerable in our city.

"We can't do this alone, and to end rough sleeping in our capital, particularly amid the cost-of-living crisis, the government must intervene to prevent the circumstances that lead to people sleeping rough before thousands more are forced to face a winter on the streets."

The money for the new homes comes from a national budget of £270m, and charities, housing associations and other bodies will be able to bid for the funding later this year.

15:40:01

Labour would 'fix bad Tory Brexit deal', says Lammy - as he is accused of defending a 'hard Brexit'

David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, has delivered a lengthy speech at Chatham House in London today - where he was accused of defending a "hard Brexit".

The MP said Labour would "fix the Tories' bad Brexit deal" if voted into power at the next election, but not everyone in the audience was convinced.

One attendee accused him of defending a "hard Brexit", to which Mr Lammy said the referendum arguments need to be put to bed more than six years on.

He said relations with the EU need to be "normalised" before any further progress can be made, but that Brussels wants to see a united approach in Britain.

Addressing a question which referred to Labour's Brexit policy as "stupid", MrLammysaid: "It is easy to make those assertions but we... shouldn't revisit the arguments that divided our nation.

"We are determined in office to govern for everybody, not just those who take a particular view."

In his 30-minute speech at Chatham House, Mr Lammy said Britain would "not rejoin" the EU, the single market or customs union under a Sir Keir Starmer premiership.

But he said the party would take action to reverse the "damage" the current UK-EU trade deal is doing to the British economy, while also restoring European relations.

He added: "It has been a central principle of British strategy for centuries that we should never find ourselves isolated in our own continent.

"But that is exactly what this government has done."

The shadow cabinet minister said Labour is "not afraid" to speak about the "damage the government's bad Brexit deal has done to our economy".

Responding to his comments, the Foreign Office said it is "focusing on promoting our values with a broader range of countries to help them become more resilient against threats, including from climate change, disease and hostile states".

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