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Rishi Sunak failed to correctly declare his wife’s financial interest in a child-minding agency that could profit from government policy changes, a watchdog has concluded.
Daniel Greenberg, parliamentary commissioner for standards, said the UK prime minister’s failure stemmed from “confusion” about the relevant rules and was therefore an “inadvertent” mistake.
Sunak said he accepted Greenberg’s ruling and apologised for the error. The prime minister will not face further action.
Greenberg began a probe into Sunak in April after the prime minister, while being questioned by MPs, did not declare his wife Akshata Murty was a shareholder in Koru Kids, a company that registers childminders.
Koru was one of six agencies listed by the government for childminders to use, and was set to benefit from a pilot programme for incentive payments announced in the March Budget.
Sunak discussed the government’s policy to provide payments to encourage people to become childminders — especially if they used one of the six agencies — at a meeting of the House of Commons liaison select committee in March.
Asked by Catherine McKinnell, a Labour member of the committee, if he had any declarations to make, Sunak said “No. All my disclosures are declared in the normal way.”
Greenberg said his investigation had concluded Murty’s shareholding was a relevant interest that should have been declared to MPs.
The commissioner said Sunak was aware of his wife’s stake in Koru before he wrote a letter in April to Sir Bernard Jenkin, Conservative chair of the liaison committee, and failed to declare the stake.
Greenberg said MPs are expected to draw attention to any “registered or unregistered interests on almost any occasion” — including those of partners — when they could have a potential influence on their actions.
Sunak had registered his wife’s shareholding in Koru in a private record of all ministers’ interests overseen by civil servants.
But details of the stake had not been included in a publicly available list of ministers’ interests. This list is less comprehensive than the private record compiled by officials.
Sunak had also not included his wife’s shareholding in the register of MPs’ interests because it did not fall under the relevant categories to be disclosed.
Following Greenberg’s investigation, Sunak’s entry in the list of ministers’ interests has been updated with a footnote about Murty’s shareholding in Koru.
Greenberg said Sunak had “confused the concept of registration with the concept of declaration” and therefore the “failure to declare arose out of this confusion and was accordingly inadvertent on the part of Mr Sunak”.
The prime minister, in a letter to Greenberg, said his wife’s shareholding in Koru was worth only about 1 per cent of the company’s total value, adding she was not a director and had no decision making role in the agency.
Sunak added that three independent advisers had concluded his wife’s stake did not require full publication on the list of ministers’ interests.
“My comments made during the . . . March 2023 liaison committee hearing and subsequent letter to the chair, were and remain correct,” he said.
Sunak added he had not been advised about the government’s childcare policy before its announcement in the Budget.
“Nor did I attend any ministerial or department meetings in advance of the Budget to discuss the mechanics of the scheme, nor the child-minding agencies to be referenced on the government website,” he added.