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UK Prime Minister Liz Truss speaks to the media in Prague, the Czech Republic, on Thursday. Photo: PA Wire via dpa

UK PM Liz Truss fires trade minister over alleged ‘serious misconduct’

  • Conor Burns’ dismissal is another setback for the prime minister, after her humiliating U-turn on a key policy and infighting at this week’s party conference
  • By sacking Burns quickly, Truss is hoping to avoid the fallout of the Chris Pincher sex assault scandal, which helped bring down her predecessor Boris Johnson

Liz Truss fired a junior trade minister Conor Burns following a “complaint of serious misconduct”, a spokesperson for the prime minister said in an emailed statement on Friday, without giving details.

Burns has also been suspended from the ruling Conservative parliamentary party pending an investigation.

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

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

UK junior trade minister Conor Burns was fired on Friday following a “complaint of serious misconduct”. Photo: UK Parliament

In May, one MP quit after admitting to watching pornography in the House of Commons, while another was arrested on suspicion of rape and sexual assault offences.

By firing Burns quickly, Truss will hope to avoid the fallout of the Chris Pincher affair, in which Johnson angered his backbenchers by not immediately dismissing 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 spokesperson said in the statement.

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

UK PM Boris Johnson ‘forgot’ about groping complaints against MP

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

The suspension of the whip from Burns reduces the Conservative Party’s working majority in the House of Commons to 69.

Elected in 2010, 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 Burns.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse