Britain’s junior trade secretary, Conor Burns, was dismissed from government on Friday after a formal complaint about his behavior was made at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham this week.
The 50-year-old Tory MP for Bournemouth West since 2010 has also been suspended by the Conservative Party while under investigation on allegations of “grave misconduct”.
The former Northern Ireland minister was a close ally of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and played a key role in his 2019 leadership campaign.
He had previously resigned as minister after it was found that he had breached parliamentary standards by using his position to intimidate a member of the public.
Downing Street said: “Following a complaint of serious misconduct, the Prime Minister has asked MP Conor Burns to leave Government with immediate effect.”
It added: “The Prime Minister took immediate action upon being informed of this allegation and understands that all ministers should uphold the high standards of behavior – as the public has a right to expect.”
A senior government insider said Prime Minister Liz Truss would take a “zero tolerance” approach to allegations of wrongdoing. Burns was also suspended as a patron of the LGBT+ Conservatives group on Friday.
The Sun reported that a complaint had been made about Burns’ conduct in an incident at the Birmingham conference. The MP said he would “fully cooperate” in the investigation into allegations of improper conduct against him and accused the party of jumping to a judgment.
Government insiders said that last month’s appointment by Truss of Burns as trade secretary was subject to “usual” scrutiny by the Cabinet’s decorum and ethics team, which approves ministerial appointments.
Wendy Morton, Chief Whip, suspended Burns from the party pending an investigation into his conduct. “We take all of these allegations very seriously. The Prime Minister has made it clear that the highest standards in public life must be maintained,” Morton’s office said.
Burns, who was also a close friend of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in her final years, has defended Johnson over the Partygate scandal involving illegal gatherings at Downing Street during the coronavirus lockdown. He claimed in January that Johnson was “ambushed with a cake” at a surprise birthday party. The former Prime Minister was later fined by London’s Metropolitan Police for attending the gathering.
Angela Rayner, Labor Deputy Leader, said: “After just a month as Prime Minister, Liz Truss’s government is already riddled with scandals.
“This deeply disturbing revelation is the latest in a long string of serious allegations of misconduct and raises serious questions about not only another minister, but also the ruling of the Prime Minister in refusing to appoint an independent ethics adviser.”
The allegations against Burns follow a series of scandals earlier this year involving Conservative politicians dubbed the “Pestminster”. Chris Pincher, a former Tory deputy chief whip and another close Johnson ally, was suspended from the Tory party following allegations of sexual harassment in the summer.
Neil Parish, a former Tory MP for Tiverton and Honiton, was also forced to leave Parliament in April after being accused of viewing pornography in the Chamber of Commons. Another unnamed Conservative MP is currently suspended and on bail over rape allegations.
https://www.ft.com/content/4f270ea0-c78a-4c32-aa91-7892aac04bd3 Tory trade secretary sacked over allegations of “grave misconduct”.