Rishi Sunak’s childcare policy risks conflict of interest with wife’s firm

Prime minister’s failure to raise wife’s childcare agency when questioned by MPs raises concern

Rishi Sunak is facing questions over a potential conflict of interest after it emerged a childcare firm part owned by his wife is to benefit from major changes in the budget.

The prime minister’s wife, Akshata Murty, is listed as a shareholder in Koru Kids, a childcare agency. Koru Kids is likely to benefit from a pilot scheme offered by Jeremy Hunt to incentivise people to become childminders, with £1,200 offered to those who train to become one through an agency.

Sunak did not mention his wife’s interest when speaking about the childcare changes at his appearance before the liaison committee on Tuesday. He was asked by the Labour MP Catherine McKinnell whether he had anything to declare. “No, all my disclosures are declared in the normal way,” he told McKinnell.

It is understood the Cabinet Office was told about Murty’s interest in Koru Kids previously but it was not deemed necessary to appear on the public register of ministerial interests, which was last updated in June 2022.

The register states that Sunak’s wife owns a venture capital investment company, Catamaran Ventures UK Ltd, without going into detail of any of its shareholdings.

Following the reports, first revealed by the i newspaper, the Liberal Democrats called on Sunak to make sure he had not broken the ministerial code in the way that he has dealt with the interest.

Wendy Chamberlain, the Lib Dem chief whip, wrote to Sir Laurie Magnus, the independent adviser on ministerial interests, drawing attention to the ministerial code provision which seeks ministers to ensure “that no conflict arises, or could reasonably be perceived to arise, between their public duties and their private interests, financial or otherwise”, and that they must “scrupulously avoid any danger of an actual or perceived conflict of interest between their ministerial position and their private financial interests”.

“They should be guided by the general principle that they should either dispose of the interest giving rise to the conflict or take alternative steps to prevent it,” the code says.

Chamberlain said: “The prime minister’s family does appear to have a relevant financial interest in Koru Kids – which has benefited from a recent change to government policy. There is a clear question as to whether articles 7.1 and 7.7 of the ministerial code have been breached.

“I therefore urge you to investigate whether the code has been broken; and if it has not, what steps the prime minister took to ensure that no conflict arose. In particular please set out whether he made you or other senior officials aware of the financial interest in Koru Kids when the childcare policy was being developed.”

Magnus is not able to open his own investigations without the permission of the prime minister.

Speaking after prime minister’s questions, Sunak’s spokesperson said he had told the No 10 permanent secretary of any relevant interests when he took the job. The government and independent adviser on ministerial interests will publish an annual statement of all those interests in May.

However, there is a question of whether Commons rules mean he should have declared it when speaking about childcare at the liaison committee. “He has followed the process in terms of declaring his interests as set out in the ministerial code,” the spokesperson said.

It is understood the government considers that a Commons declaration is not relevant in relation to Sunak’s family interest because any potential conflict would already have been addressed and mitigated under the ministerial declaration process.

But Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “Rishi Sunak must explain why he failed to come clean when asked about the shares his family held in a company now set to financially benefit from a childcare policy announced in his budget.

“He must urgently correct the record and set out what steps he took to avoid an actual or perceived conflict of interest. No proper explanation has yet been provided by the prime minister as to why this was not deemed necessary to publish in the register of members’ interests.”


Rowena Mason Whitehall editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Rishi Sunak’s wife’s stake in childcare firm not mentioned in six ministerial registers
Exclusive: No 10 urged to explain as lists of interests since 2019 do not refer to Akshata Murty’s shares

Peter Walker Political correspondent

18, Apr, 2023 @5:39 PM

Article image
Rishi Sunak’s accountants urge retention of non-dom status
Evelyn Partners recently confirmed PM made around £5m in past three years, mostly through investments

Kiran Stacey Political correspondent

25, Mar, 2023 @8:00 AM

Article image
Rishi Sunak’s alleged breach of MPs’ rules: what we know so far
PM being investigated over failure to declare wife Akshata Murty’s shareholding in childcare firm

Peter Walker Political correspondent

17, Apr, 2023 @2:01 PM

Article image
Rishi Sunak’s actions over wife’s shareholdings breached MPs’ code of conduct
Parliamentary commissioner for standards says PM inadvertently broke transparency rules by failing to declare wife’s interest in firm

Nadeem Badshah

23, Aug, 2023 @10:27 PM

Article image
Sunak declares wife’s link to childcare firm amid standards investigation
PM declares Akshata Murty’s shareholding in Koru Kids in new register of ministers’ interests

Peter Walker Political correspondent

19, Apr, 2023 @11:29 AM

Article image
Rishi Sunak’s wife claims non-domicile status
Tax status allows Akshata Murty to avoid tax on foreign earnings

Rupert Neate

06, Apr, 2022 @7:28 PM

Article image
Rishi Sunak’s family moves out of Downing Street amid tax row
Chancellor is expected to spend weekends with his family at Kensington home

Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

10, Apr, 2022 @11:13 AM

Article image
Spotlight on Rishi Sunak’s family as they prepare to enter No 10
His wife, Akshata Murty, is the daughter of a billionaire; their garden parties are one of the hottest tickets in their home town

Caroline Davies

24, Oct, 2022 @2:31 PM

Article image
‘It’s what they do’: voters in Sunak’s Yorkshire seat react to wife’s tax status
Constituents in the chancellor’s Richmond constituency give their verdict on the non-dom status of his wife, Akshata Murty

Helen Pidd North of England editor

08, Apr, 2022 @5:17 PM

Article image
Sunak’s worldview is more hedge fund manager than tech bro
Analysis: Unlike his predecessors, he has not criticised tax havens or pledged to go after tax avoiders

Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

11, Apr, 2022 @7:21 PM