Liz Truss is contending with claims her month-old Government is already “beset by scandal” as fresh allegations of inappropriate behaviour rock the Conservative Party.
The Prime Minister sacked Conor Burns from his post in the Department for International Trade on Friday following a complaint of “serious misconduct”, as No 10 insisted “high standards of behaviour” must be maintained.
But the MP – who has also had the Tory whip suspended – accused the party of rushing to judgment, as he vowed to clear his name.
He now faces an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour at the annual Tory conference.
The MP for Bournemouth West, who has held the seat since 2010, said he would “fully co-operate” with the probe.
In a statement posted on social media, he said he had not been given “any information” about the complaint when he was informed the party would be investigating.
He tweeted: “Earlier I received a call from the chief whip Wendy Morton. Ms Morton informed me that a complaint had been received about me and she had passed it to Conservative Campaign Headquarters to investigate.
“I was not given any information about the complaint nor was I asked to provide any information.
“On the basis of this complaint Ms Morton told me that the whip was being withdrawn and that I was standing down as trade minister. I will fully cooperate with the party’s (inquiry) and look forward to clearing my name.
“I hope the party will be as quick to conduct their (inquiry) as they were to rush to judgment.”
Mr Burns was appointed minister of state in the Department for International Trade in last month’s reshuffle, after Ms Truss took the reins in No 10.
1/3 Earlier I received a call from the Chief Whip Wendy Morton. Ms Morton informed me that a complaint had been received about me and she had passed it to Conservative Campaign Headquarters to investigate. I was not given any information about the complaint nor was I asked to
— Conor Burns (@ConorBurnsUK) October 7, 2022
He was previously a minister in the Northern Ireland Office, and had been a staunch ally of former prime minister Boris Johnson.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner claimed the Truss Government was already “beset by scandal”.
“This deeply disturbing revelation is the latest in a long line of serious misconduct allegations, and raises serious questions not only about yet another minister but about the Prime Minister’s judgment in refusing to appoint an independent ethics adviser,” she said.
A No 10 spokesperson said: “Following a complaint of serious misconduct, the Prime Minister has asked Conor Burns MP to leave the Government with immediate effect.
“The Prime Minister took direct action on being informed of this allegation and is clear that all ministers should maintain the high standards of behaviour – as the public rightly expects.”
A spokesman for the Whips’ Office said: “We have suspended the whip pending investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour earlier this week.
“We take all such allegations extremely seriously. The Prime Minister has been clear that the highest standards in public life must be upheld.”
Tory MP Simon Hoare said the investigation should take place “speedily”, and on the presumption that Mr Burns is “innocent until proven guilty”.
The development is the latest in a series of scandals to hit the Conservative Party, including groping allegations against former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher.
In May, former Tory MP Neil Parish quit his seat in Tiverton and Honiton after admitting to watching pornography in the Commons.
Just short of two weeks later, an unnamed Conservative MP was arrested on suspicion of rape and sexual assault offences spanning seven years.