Rishi Sunak 'plotting mini cabinet reshuffle' to replace Nadhim Zahawi

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to carry out a mini cabinet reshuffle today to replace sacked Tory chairman Nadhim Zahawi.

The weekly cabinet meeting has been pushed back an hour and will now begin at 10.30am.

Rishi Sunak has been looking for a new party chairman for over a week, after the sacking of Nadhim Zahawi.

Mr Zahawi was sacked as Tory party chairman after an ethics inquiry into the handling of his tax affairs found a ‘serious breach’ of the ministerial code.

The former chancellor paid a multi-million-pound settlement – estimated to be around £5 million – to HMRC when he held the purse strings to the country and was in charge of the UK’s tax policy last year.

He insisted he ‘acted properly’ and his ‘error’ over shares in the YouGov polling company he co-founded was ‘careless and not deliberate’.

But Mr Sunak ordered his ethics adviser to look into the matter amid allegations Mr Zahawi tried to avoid tax.

After an inquiry into the matter by Sunak’s new ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus – who said that certain ‘omissions’ by Mr Zahawi fell short of the standards set out in the ministerial code – the PM swiftly removed the former Tory chairman.

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The British leader explained his decision, saying that he had ‘pledged that the government I lead would have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level’.

Mr Zahawi responded by telling Mr Sunak he ‘can be assured’ of his support ‘from the backbenches in the coming years’.

Sources told the BBC they expected Mr Zahawi’s successor to be the Trade Minister Greg Hands.

If that were to be the case then the PM would be looking for a new trade minister.

Current Business Secretary Grant Shapps – a former party chairman – will not be the new party chairman – another source told the Beeb.

It is also expected that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy will be broken up.

During his Tory leadership campaign in the summer of 2022, Mr Sunak said he would create a standalone energy department.

The potential overhaul could be ‘relatively limited’, with a ‘domino’ effect caused by the naming of a successor for Mr Zahawi, The Times reported, citing a Government source.

The Sun reported that Beis and the Department for International Trade could be merged, and a new science and digital department created, leaving culture and sport as a separate unit.

A reconfiguration would also affect the composition of the Cabinet, raising questions over the future of Mr Shapps and International Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch.

Dominic Raab is expected to survive a potential reshuffle this week, as Mr Sunak has indicated he will wait for the outcome of an inquiry into the Deputy Prime Minister’s conduct before taking any action.

Mr Raab, who is also the Justice Secretary, is being investigated by senior lawyer Adam Tolley KC over bullying allegations – with dozens of officials thought to be involved in eight formal complaints. Mr Raab has denied the bullying allegations.

The Cabinet-level changes are expected to be completed ahead of a meeting of Mr Sunak’s top team, which has been delayed until Tuesday afternoon to allow for the reshuffle process.

Cabinet ministers thought to be under consideration to succeed Mr Zahawi include Mr Shapps, Commons leader Penny Mordaunt and trade minister Greg Hands.

Development minister Andrew Mitchell, another of the names suggested as party chairman, told Times Radio: ‘I’m certainly not expecting to be called upon to do that.

‘But one should always try to do what the Prime Minister wants you to do.’

Treasury minister Andrew Griffiths would not be drawn on the prospect of breaking up the business department.

‘If the Prime Minister has got something to say on how to reorganise government then we’ll have to wait and see that,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Asked if it was a mistake to disband the Department of Energy and Climate Change in 2016, he said he joined government from a business background.

‘To me, it is all about outcomes, it is not about process. Obviously if there are ways of streamlining the way this Government can deliver on the people’s priorities, then that’s important.’

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