Tory UK Trade Minister Conor Burns has quit from the government after a Commons watchdog recommended he serve a seven-day suspension for abusing his parliamentary privilege in an attempt to intimidate a member of the public.
Burns – a close political ally and friend of British PM Boris Johnson – was found to have used House of Commons note paper to write to an individual who was in dispute with the Conservative MP’s father over the repayment of a loan. An investigation by the Commons Standards Commissioner, Kathryn Stone, revealed that Burns warned the individual that he could raise the personal matter in Parliament.
The Bournemouth West MP was appointed as trade policy minister by the prime minister in July last year, having served as Johnson’s parliamentary private secretary when he was foreign secretary.
Responding to Stone’s investigation, the Commons Committee on Standards said the MP had “used his parliamentary position in an attempt to intimidate a member of the public into doing as Mr Burns wished, in a dispute relating to purely private family interests which had no connection with Mr Burns’ parliamentary duties.”
The disgraced politician has since taken to social media, insisting that it was “with deep regret” that he had decided to quit Johnson’s cabinet, but notably gave no apologies.
A Number 10 spokesman confirmed the resignation and said that Burns’ replacement would be “announced in due course.”
The embarrassing incident comes as Johnson attempts to formulate a plan for easing the strict lockdown rules amid the Covid-19 crisis. Stay-at-home orders imposed by the PM on March 23 are up for review on Thursday, with the UK currently one of the worst-hit countries in the coronavirus pandemic.