British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Wednesday that his government wants to put an end to the use of hotels for some unaccompanied asylum seekers in the country.
During Prime Minister's Question Time in parliament, Tulip Siddiq, the Labour party’s shadow city minister, asked Sunak whether he still thinks the UK is a safe haven for vulnerable children as the government recently confirmed that about 200 asylum-seeking children were missing from hotels in the country.
In response, Sunak said the country has opened its doors to hundreds of thousands of people coming from Syria from Afghanistan, Ukraine and Hong Kong and provided a refuge over the past few years.
"But the reports that we have read about children are concerning. Local authorities have a statutory duty to protect all children regardless of where they go missing from and in that situation. They work closely with the local agencies including the police to establish their whereabouts, and that's why it's so important that we end the use of hotels for some asylum seekers and reduce pressure on the overall system. That's what our plan will do," he added.
- Sunak under pressure over Conservative Party chair's alleged tax avoidance
Sunak has been pressed on claims that Nadhim Zahawi, the chairman of the Conservative Party, has been benefiting from an offshore family company in Gibraltar.
Zahawi has been facing calls to resign for some time after it emerged that he paid a penalty to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) over unpaid taxes while he was chancellor last year, as part of a multi-million pound dispute.
The country's main opposition leader, Keir Starmer, accused Sunak of being "too weak" to sack Zahawi.
"We all know why the prime minister was reluctant to ask his party chair questions about tax avoidance. His failure to sack him when the whole country can see what's going on shows how hopelessly weak he is. Is he starting to wonder if this job is just too big for him?" Starmer said.
Sunak answered that he was following his principles and values and waiting for the results of a newly-launched investigation to look into millions of pounds of unpaid taxes while accusing Starmer of having no principles and playing "petty politics."
Some analysts said Sunak's own taxes could be analyzed soon, as it was leaked to the press that his wife was non-domiciled for tax purposes, meaning she did not pay UK tax on overseas earnings.
Zahawi's family company registered offshore in Gibraltar
Local reports showed that the tax payment dispute was related to a polling company called YouGov that Zahawi co-established in 2000 before he became a member of parliament.
But problems have emerged concerning YouGov's share distribution, with the company allocating 42.5% of its shares to Gibraltar-based trust Balshore Investments, run by his family and registered offshore.
Tax expert Dan Neidle started examining publicly available documents on Zahawi's businesses, claiming that he was trying to bend the rules and avoid paying taxes through Balshore Investments.
On Tuesday, Neidle said in a report penned for Tax Policy Associates, a non-profit advisory firm, that Balshore "held the YouGov shares, and we know they were eventually sold for around £27 million ($33.5 million)."
"In plain English – he benefited from the Balshore structure. In technical tax terms, he was likely a beneficiary of the trust. The existence of the settlement obviously means that prior to the settlement, Mr. Zahawi had failed to pay tax that was due. The fact he admitted to ‘carelessness’ means it was not just a technical error – there was a failure to take reasonable care," it underlined.