Sunak admits regret at hiring Williamson as he fights to get a grip

PMQs: Rishi Sunak says he ‘regrets’ appointing Williamson

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Rishi Sunak admitted he “regretted” reappointing Sir Gavin Williamson as a minister as he insisted his Government was one of “integrity”. The Prime Minister blasted the behaviour of his former cabinet minister in the face of an intense grilling by Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.

Sir Gavin resigned from his role last night after a deluge of allegations about his previous behaviour.

He was accused of bullying the former chief whip, telling a senior civil servant to “slit your throat”, and of claiming to “own” a Tory MP who he lent money too.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Sunak said: “I obviously regret appointing someone who has had to resign in the circumstances.

“But I think what the British people would like to know is that when situations like this arise, that they will be dealt with properly.

“And that’s why it is absolutely right that he resigned and it’s why it is absolutely right that there is an investigation to look into these matters properly.

“I said my Government will be characterised by integrity, professionalism and accountability and it will.”

He rejected knowing about “specific” allegations when he gave Sir Gavin a role in his Government and said expressed disgust at the claims that had been made.

The Prime Minister told MPs: “Unequivocally the behaviour complained of was unacceptable and it’s absolutely right that the right honourable gentleman has resigned.

“For the record I did not know about any of the specific concerns relating to his conduct as secretary of state or chief whip that date back some years.

“I believe that people in public life should treat others with consideration and respect and those are the principles that this Government will stand by.”

Former Conservative party chairman Sir Jake Berry said he had informed Mr Sunak of a row between Sir Gavin and the ex-chief whip Wendy Morton shortly before he became Prime Minister.

Sir Keir ceased Mr Sunak’s decision to hire his close ally in spite of the allegations in order to paint the Prime Minister as “weak”.

He said: “Everyone in the country knows someone in the country like the member for South Staffordshire, a sad middle manager getting off on intimidating those beneath him.

“But everyone in the country also knows someone like the Prime Minister, the boss who is so weak, so worried the bullies will turn on him that he hides behind them.

“What message does he think it sends when rather than take on the bullies, he lines up alongside and thanks them for their loyalty?”

He added: “If he can’t even stand up to a cartoon bully with a pet spider, if he’s too scared to face the public in an election, what chance has he got of running the country?”

Hitting back, the Tory leader reminded MPs that his opposite number had tried to make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister.

He went on: “We’re strengthening our economy, he’s backing the strikers.

“We’re supporting people with energy bills, he’s supporting the protesters.

“We’re tackling illegal migration, he’s opposing every measure.

“The British people want real leadership on the serious global challenges we face and that’s what they’ll get from this Government.”

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