Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing questions about his judgement following the resignation of cabinet minister Sir Gavin Williamson after bullying claims.
Mr Sunak is set to face MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions and is expected to be asked when he learned the full details of the allegations.
Sir Gavin is accused of abusive behaviour towards fellow MPs and civil servants, though denies any wrongdoing. removed over his handling of A-level exams during the Covid pandemic.
Speaking on BBC Two’s Newsnight, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner called Sir Gavin’s appointment last month “astonishing” and said it showed “poor judgement and lack of leadership and weakness” on the part of the prime minister.
She said Sir Gavin should stand down as an MP if the bullying claims are proven. “There is no place for bullies in parliament,” she said.
David Lammy, shadow foreign secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that Sir Gavin’s behaviour was “repellent, odious and unacceptable” and questioned why he had been appointed to a ministerial position in Mr Sunak’s government.
“He appointed him as some sort of enforcer – apparently because this is the way he behaves,” Mr Lammy said.
“We really should have an account of why he came back into government – it’s not clear in the first place why this individual was knighted for services to this country.”
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “Rishi Sunak has serious questions to answer about why he appointed Gavin Williamson, then stood by him instead of sacking him.
“His promise to lead a government of integrity has now been left in tatters.”
In his resignation letter, Sir Gavin said he refuted the “characterisation” of the claims “about my past conduct” but felt they had become a “distraction from the good work the government is doing”.
He added that he had apologised to the recipient of the text messages and would comply with the complaints process to “clear my name of any wrongdoing”.
He later tweeted that he would not be taking any severance pay, traditionally given to ministers when they leave office.
In reply, Mr Sunak said he accepted the resignation “with great sadness” and thanked Sir Gavin for his “personal support and loyalty”.
“Your commitment to successive Conservative governments and the party over the years has been unwavering,” he said.
Mr Sunak is also facing pressure over why he reappointed Suella Braverman as home secretary just weeks after she was forced to resign for breaking ministerial rules by sending an official document to a fellow MP from her personal email.
Opposition figures have again accused him of keeping her in the cabinet as part of an agreement to ensure her support for his position as prime minister.