A Cabinet Office investigation has been launched into claims from a Conservative MP that she was sacked as a minister because of her Muslim faith.
Nusrat Ghani was sacked as transport minister in a February 2020 reshuffle.
Ms Ghani said she was told by a whip, who she did not identify, that her “Muslimness was raised as an issue” at a meeting in Downing Street.
She said she was also told that her “Muslim woman minister status was making colleagues feel uncomfortable” and that there were concerns “that I wasn’t loyal to the party as I didn’t do enough to defend the party against Islamophobia allegations”.
Chief whip Mark Spencer later said he was the whip in question but has described her allegations as “completely false”.
He added: “I consider them to be defamatory. I have never used those words attributed to me.”
Number 10 says PM told MP to make formal complaint
Now, Downing Street has confirmed that Boris Johnson has asked the Cabinet Office to carry out an inquiry into the allegations.
“At the time these allegations were first made, the prime minister recommended to her that she make a formal complaint to CCHQ. She did not take up this offer,” a Number 10 spokesperson said.
“The prime minister has now asked officials to establish the facts about what happened.
“As he said at the time, the prime minister takes these claims very seriously.”
Minister says ‘we need to get to the bottom of this’
Speaking to Sky News shortly after the inquiry was announced, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said Ms Ghani has made a “very serious allegation”.
“She put out a statement last night saying actually, to be fair to her, this could be people who weren’t even members of the Conservative Party, which is why we need to get to the bottom of this very quickly,” he told Kay Burley.
“And of course the chief whip has come out and named himself as the individual and I work with both colleagues, and I think it is important that someone like a Cabinet Office senior civil servant should look at this properly, because the chief whip has also categorically denied this.”