BRITAIN’S Minister for Trade, Conor Burns, has resigned after a report from the House of Common Committee on Standards found he used his position as an MP to intimidate a member of the public.
The report has accused the MP for Bournemouth West, who was born in Belfast, of abusing his status as an MP in a debt dispute between his father and a company whose name has not been made public.
Conor Burns resigned today, after the committee ruled he should receive a seven-day suspension from the House for deploying his position as an intimidation tactic.
The Committee on Standards said he had broken Commons rules after suggesting he could use Parliamentary privilege in the dispute.
In a letter to the company on behalf of his father, the MP wrote: “I have reflected carefully before deciding to become involved. I am acutely aware that my role in the public eye could well attract interest especially if I were to use parliamentary privilege to raise the case (on which I have taken advice from the House authorities).
“I am also conscious that your high-profile role outside [the company] could well add to that attention.”
The committee concluded he had made "veiled threats" to use privilege to "further his family's interests" during the financial dispute.
The report concludes: “Mr Burns persisted in making veiled threats to use parliamentary privilege to further his family’s interests even during the course of the Commissioner’s investigation. He also misleadingly implied that his conduct had the support of the House authorities.”
Mr Burns, a former confidante of Mrs Thatcher, is a close ally of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
On foot of the report and details of the suspension, Mr Burns tweeted today that he was resigning from government with 'deep regret', but that ‘the PM would continue to have my wholehearted support'.
With deep regret I have decided to resign as Minister of State for International Trade. @BorisJohnson will continue to have my wholehearted support from the backbenches.
— Conor Burns (@ConorBurnsUK) May 4, 2020
Burns, a Catholic, was born in Belfast in 1972.
His family relocated to Hertfordshire in 1980, where he was educated by Christian Brothers at St Columba's College, St Albans.
During the 2015 general election Mr Burns told The Irish Post: “I’m a Catholic unionist, born in the Royal Victoria Hospital on the Falls Road. But neither my religion, my birthplace nor my gayness has been mentioned by a single person throughout this campaign.”