Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani should lodge a formal complaint over allegations she was sacked as a minister because she was a Muslim, justice secretary Dominic Raab has said.
Raab said the allegations were “incredibly serious” and that there will only be an investigation by the Conservative party if Ghani submits a formal complaint.
Ghani told the Sunday Times that after she was sacked as transport minister in 2020 a government whip told her that her “Muslimness was raised as an issue” at a Downing Street meeting and that her “Muslim woman minister status was making colleagues feel uncomfortable”.
Ghani reportedly met with Johnson about the allegations in 2020, but declined to lodge a formal complaint.
She said she kept quiet about the allegation because she didn’t want to be “ostracised by colleagues”.
“It was like being punched in the stomach. I felt humiliated and powerless,” she said.
Government chief whip Mark Spencer denied the claim, saying it was “completely false”.
When asked if he believed Ghani, Raab told Sky News: “It is incredibly serious – let me just be clear at the outset. We have absolutely zero tolerance for any discrimination, any Islamophobia, in the Conservative party.
“On these specific allegations, it’s very unusual, but the chief whip has come out and said the conversation concerned was with him, Mark Spencer. He has categorically denied in what can only be described as the most forthright and robust terms, calling it defamatory.
“The one point I would note is that if there are any claims like this, they should result in a formal complaint which allows a formal investigation to take place. As the chief whip has pointed out, Nus hasn’t made a formal complaint. She was asked to do so. This relates back to 2020. And in the absence of doing so, there will be no specific investigation into this.”
A report into Islamophobia in the Tory party last year found there was not “institutional Islamophobia” within the party, but criticised Boris Johnson and Lord Zac Goldsmith for remarks they had made on Muslims.
The report said their comments had made Muslims more likely to face abuse.
In response to the Sunday Times report, Spencer tweeted: “To ensure other whips are not drawn into this matter, I am identifying myself as the person Nusrat Ghani MP has made claims about.
“These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory. I have never used those words attributed to me.”