Rishi Sunak has justified his choice to retain Science Secretary Michelle Donelan amidst growing pressure for her resignation over the allocation of taxpayer funds to settle a legal dispute. Donelan’s department covered the £15,000 settlement cost with Professor Kate Sang, who was falsely accused of supporting the proscribed terrorist organisation Hamas.

Prime Minister Sunak, when questioned about Donelan’s continuation in office, cited his focus on the budget. He explained that Michelle raised concerns about articles related to an incident on October 7, but those concerns were later clarified and withdrawn. Sunak further justified the settlement payment, stating it aligns with a long-standing convention across various governments that the government funds legal disputes involving ministers performing their duties.

Donelan issued a statement admitting there was “no evidence” of Prof Sang supporting Hamas. The Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology confirmed covering the damages cost but did not disclose the specific amount.

The controversy arose when Donelan tweeted a letter expressing “disgust and outrage” over Prof Sang and another academic allegedly sharing extremist views. The department defended its decision, citing an established precedent of providing legal support to ministers when matters concern their conduct.

Labour leader Keir Starmer criticized the use of taxpayer money to cover the settlement, calling it “totally insulting” to the public facing financial struggles. He emphasised the need for change in such practices.

The situation has sparked debate over the appropriateness of government funding for legal disputes involving ministers and raised questions about accountability and transparency.

And then this little beauty on ITV News:

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