UK's Liz Truss fires minister Conor Burns over misconduct complaint

Trade minister says he will 'fully co-operate' with party inquiry and wants to 'clear his name'

Conor Burns's dismissal is yet another setback for Prime Minister Liz Truss following a dismal annual party conference in Birmingham. PA
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British Prime Minister Liz Truss fired her trade minister Conor Burns following a “complaint of serious misconduct”, a representative said in an emailed statement on Friday, without giving details.

Mr Burns has also been suspended from the ruling Conservative Party pending an investigation.

His dismissal is yet another setback for Ms Truss following a dismal annual party conference in Birmingham this week, which descended into infighting over her about-turn on a key policy.

It will put renewed focus on the personal conduct of Tory MPs, which also undermined her predecessor Boris Johnson.

By firing Mr Burns quickly, Ms Truss will hope to avoid the fallout of the Chris Pincher affair, in which Mr Johnson angered his backbenchers by not immediately dismissing Mr Pincher over allegations of sexual assault.

“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,” the representative said in the statement.

Conor Burns says he will co-operate with a party enquiry. PA

In a statement on Twitter, Mr Burns said he would “fully co-operate” with the party’s inquiry and is looking forward “to clearing my name”

Despite acting fast, Ms Truss is still likely to face questions over her judgment in appointing Mr Burns, who was previously a Northern Ireland minister trusted by Mr Johnson with repairing relations with the US over Brexit.

He had previously resigned from government in 2020 after he used his position as an MP to intimidate a member of the public.

Earlier this year, a Conservative MP resigned after admitting to watching pornography in Parliament and another unnamed Tory MP was arrested over allegations of rape and sexual assault.

In April, Conservative MP Imran Ahmad Khan resigned his seat after being convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage boy in 2008 and the opposition Labour Party won the subsequent by-election in Wakefield.

Mr Burns's suspension from the party reduces the Conservative Party’s working majority in the House of Commons to 69. Elected in 2010, Mr Burns is the MP for Bournemouth West and has a majority of 10,150.

“In terms of politics as a whole, it’s always worrying because we all expect and hope to maintain the highest standards in public life,” government minister Victoria Prentis told Times Radio in response to the complaint against Mr Burns.

Updated: October 07, 2022, 6:53 PM