Rishi Sunak admits he 'regrets' appointing Gavin Williamson, after minister resigns amid bullying allegations

9 November 2022, 13:55

Rishi Sunak has admitted he regrets hiring Sir Gavin Williamson
Rishi Sunak has admitted he regrets hiring Sir Gavin Williamson. Picture: UK Parliament

By Kit Heren

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has admitted that he regrets putting Sir Gavin Williamson in his cabinet, after the minister resigned amid bullying allegations on Tuesday night.

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Asked by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer whether he regretted making Sir Gavin's appointment, Mr Sunak said "obviously".

Sir Keir told MPs at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday: "The member for South Staffordshire (Sir Gavin) spent years courting the idea he can intimidate others, blurring the lines to normalise bullying behaviour.

"It's precisely why the Prime Minister gave him a job. The truth is simple: he is a pathetic bully but he would never get away with it if people like the Prime Minister didn't hand him power. So does he regret his decision to make him a Government minister?"

Sir Gavin Williamson has resigned after bullying allegations
Sir Gavin Williamson has resigned after bullying allegations. Picture: Getty

The Prime Minister replied: "I obviously regret appointing someone who has had to resign in these 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."

Sir Gavin resigned on Tuesday evening, saying he had made the decision "to comply fully with the complaints process", adding that allegations against him were "becoming a distraction for the good work this Government is doing".

James O'Brien is 'utterly disgusted' by 'infamous coward' Gavin Williamson

It follows allegations he sent expletive-laden messages to former chief whip Wendy Morton complaining about being refused an invitation to the Queen's funeral, claims he bullied a former official at the Ministry of Defence and an accusation of "unethical and immoral" behaviour while he was chief whip.

Sir Gavin told Mr Sunak: "As you know, there is an ongoing complaints process concerning text messages I sent to a colleague.

"I am complying with this process and I have apologised to the recipient for those messages.

"Since then, there have been other allegations made about my past conduct. I refute the characterisation of these claims, but I recognise these are becoming a distraction for the good work this Government is doing for the British people.

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"I have therefore decided to step back from Government so that I can comply fully with the complaints process that is underway and clear my name of any wrongdoing."

Slamming Mr Sunak's original decision to hire Sir Gavin as minister without portfolio, Sir Keir called the Prime Minister "so weak" at PMQs.

Read more: Gavin Williamson quits as Cabinet Office minister amid bullying allegations

Read more: Gavin Williamson investigated over expletive-filled messages after he wasn’t invited to the Queen’s funeral

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?"

Sir Keir Starmer slammed the PM for appointing Sir Gavin
Sir Keir Starmer slammed the PM for appointing Sir Gavin. Picture: Getty

Mr Sunak replied: "The message that I clearly want to send is that integrity in public life matters and that is why it is right that (Gavin Williamson) has resigned. It is why it is right that there is a rigorous process to examine these issues."

"But as well as focusing on this one individual, it also right and important that we keep delivering for the whole country and that's why this Government will continue to concentrate on stabilising the economy, on strengthening the NHS and on tackling illegal migration, those are my priorities, those are the priorities of the British people and this Government will deliver on them."

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