Politics latest: Number 10 asked if police wasting time investigating … – Sky News

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The latest updates and analysis as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces the prospect of a police fine for not wearing a seatbelt in a social media video.
Questions about Nadhim Zahawi’s financial affairs followed him through his relatively short-lived campaign to become prime minister last summer.
The allegations centre on his links to a Gibraltar-based trust “Balshore Investments Limited”, of which his father Hareth Zahawi is a director.
Nadhim Zahawi has said that neither he nor his wife benefit from this trust.
However, when he founded the polling firm YouGov in May 2000, the trust was allocated shares in the company equalling the number given to Mr Zahawi’s co-founder Stephan Shakespeare.
After digging through pages of documents, the accountant and tax campaigner Dan Neidle has suggested there would have been a tax saving of several million pounds when these shares were sold because they were held by an offshore trust.
It’s this figure the Guardian is suggesting is at the centre of the reported repayment to HMRC.
Nadhim Zahawi’s responses to these stories have always been very specific and carefully worded.
After these latest accusations, a spokesperson for the Tory party chairman said he “does not recognise these numbers” and has “never sought legal advice for dealing with HMRC”.
They also insisted Mr Zahawi’s taxes were up to date and fully paid in the UK.
Sources have briefed that Mr Neidle – who is a Labour member – is a “Labour activist” and the allegations are merely taken from his “blog”.
One of Mr Zahawi’s more outspoken interventions came during the Number 10  leadership race in July last year though, when he said he was the victim of a “smear” over his financial affairs.
That statement puts the cabinet minister in a difficult spot if concrete evidence emerges that he has repaid money to HMRC and potentially even been issued with a penalty.
The timing of any investigation or settlement could be important as well, given Mr Zahawi was briefly chancellor last year.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has spoken of his “regret” at the way the Northern Ireland Protocol was implemented.
The Protocol is the post-Brexit trading agreement between the  UK and EU which put a trade border in the Irish Sea.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Varadkar said: “I do have regrets and a regret that I have is that, in the same way Brexit was imposed on Northern Ireland without the support of both communities, the protocol was imposed on Northern Ireland without the support of two communities.
“And that wasn’t possible at the time for various reasons, in part because the Executive was not functioning, so there was no one to speak for Northern Ireland. But that has created difficulties.”

The UK and the EU are currently negotiating a way to resolve the current difficulties around the protocol.
Currently, the Northern Ireland Assembly is not able to function as the DUP have blocked its formation due to their concerns with the protocol.
Mr Varadkar was speaking from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
While there, he met with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who tweeted an image of the pair.
Sir Keir said he was “proud” to be supporting the UK government’s negotiations.
Some 54% of people in Scotland would vote no in a new independence referendum, a poll has suggested.
The first survey of 2023 shows a reversal of the trend of pro-independence sentiment being in the majority among the polled public, as seen at the end of last year.
Pollsters at True North asked 1,002 Scots for their opinion between 10 and 12 January.
Notably, this was before the UK government used its powers to veto legislation passed by the Scottish parliament for the first time – the gender recognition reform act.
True North found that, when “don’t knows” were removed, 54% of people backed Scotland staying in the UK, while 46% wanted independence. 
Polling expert Professor Sir John Curtice said the poll also showed pessimism about Scotland’s economic prospects.
He said: “Following on from polling conducted shortly before Christmas that pointed in the same direction, today’s poll suggests that the spike in support for independence registered after the Supreme Court judgement on indyref2 has proven to be temporary.”
The poll also asked which way people would vote if there was a general election.
The SNP ended up on 43%, Labour on 29%, the Conservatives on 18% and the Lib Dems on 7%.

Sir John said: “The poll suggests that, at 43%, support for the SNP would be well below the 50% mark that Nicola Sturgeon would like to surpass at the next general election – though it also suggests that, at present, fewer than half would vote for pro-independence parties in a Holyrood ballot, too.”
Political editor Beth Rigby speaks to the Labour peer, professor, doctor and scientist Robert Winston about what he thinks needs to change to save the NHS, and his own experience with the health service following his wife’s death in 2021.
Plus, Beth and producer Mollie Malone reflect on the big political stories of the week including Boris Johnson’s trip to Davos and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s resignation.
Email the podcast at bethrigbypodcast@sky.uk.
Click to subscribe to Beth Rigby Interviews… wherever you get your podcasts
The Treasury is close to agreeing a £300m aid package for the UK’s second-biggest steel producer in a move aimed at reducing its carbon footprint and averting the loss of thousands of industrial jobs across northern England.

Sky News has learnt that Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, has been advised by officials to approve a request from British Steel for public money following an intervention by Grant Shapps, the business secretary, and Michael Gove, the levelling-up secretary.
Whitehall sources said the government was expected to communicate a decision to the company in the coming days, which would see around £300m handed to it in instalments during the next few years.
The funding would be “directly linked” to a project to replace British Steel’s blast furnaces at its Scunthorpe site with a greener electric arc furnace, according to one person close to the situation.
Jingye Group, British Steel’s Chinese owner, would also be obliged to invest at least £1bn in the business by 2030 and make commitments relating to job retention, the person added.
Read more from city editor Mark Kleinman here:
Nadhim Zahawi has been seen going into Number 10 Downing Street today.
Questions have been swirling about Mr Zahawi’s tax affairs, following reports he paid a seven-figure sum to HMRC.
The issue of the Conservative Party’s chair finances resurfaced after also coming to the surface during the leadership race after Boris Johnson resigned.
Mr Zahawi said at the time he was being “smeared”.
The minister did not respond when asked by political correspondent Rob Powell if he had been honest about his tax affairs.
You can watch the footage below, as well as Rob’s latest analysis of the situation:
Downing Street has declined to comment further on whether Rishi Sunak has broken the law for a second time.
A video of the PM – which you can watch below – was uploaded to social media yesterday which showed him not wearing a seatbelt while on a visit to the North West.
Lancashire Police say they are looking into the matter.
If Mr Sunak is found to have broken the law, it would be the second time after he was fined for breaking lockdown rules while chancellor in 2020.
The prime minister’s official spokesman told journalists this morning: “It was a mistake and he’s apologised and thinks it’s important to do so as people should wear their seatbelt.” 
When asked if police were wasting their time investigating the incident – as one Tory MP has claimed (see 10.07 post), they refused to comment on the police and their inquiries, saying it is “entirely a matter for the police where they allocate resources”.
Asked if the PM would apologise publicly, he said: “I’m here speaking on behalf of the prime minister.”
We’ve been reporting throughout the day about Nadhim Zahawi, and questions that have arisen around his tax affairs.
Naturally, the subject came up at this morning’s daily press Number 10 news briefing with journalists.
Asked if any concerns had been raised about Mr Zahawi’s taxes before Rishi Sunak made him party chair, the prime minister’s official spokesman said he was not aware of any “specific” conversations.
Aside from that, Downing Street refused to shed any more light on the situation.
Asked if the PM had confidence in Mr Zahawi’s honesty, Mr Sunak’s spokesman said this had been answered during PMQs in the Commons on Wednesday.
When asked about the matter, Mr Sunak had said: “My honourable friend has already addressed this matter in full and there is nothing more that I can add.”
Deputy political editor Sam Coates takes a look at Rishi Sunak’s levelling up announcement and assesses whether or not the prime minister will get the credit for the benefits that will flow from the extra cash:

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has written to government saying it intends to investigate the UK’s housebuilding sector.
In a letter to Housing Secretary Michael Gove, the CMA said it had been undertaking “significant” work for people with leasehold homes who had been falling victim to unfair terms.
It highlighted removing the doubling of ground rent clauses as a particular area – noting that thousands of refunds had been obtained.
“Looking ahead, we expect that promoting competitive markets and tackling unfair practices across the accommodation sector more broadly will be a continued area of focus over the next 12 months,” the letter said.
The letter went on to say that the board considered the existence of many factors at play in “delivering affordable, high-quality places to live”, and that proposals for a market study were also looked at.
The board is said to have agreed “that a thriving, competitive homebuilding sector is a core foundation for delivering the homes people need”.
The CMA board decided “in principle” that homebuilding should be “prioritised as the next market study that the CMA launches”.
A formal decision will be made shortly, but the scope of the project is now being worked on.
The CMA has asked to interview officials from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities as part of the probe, and thanked Mr Gove for his “personal engagement” on the topic.
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