Rishi Sunak is being investigated for a potential breach of the MP code of conduct amid scrutiny of his wife’s stake in a childcare firm that received a boost in last month’s Budget.
The parliamentary standards commissioner — tasked with policing MP behavior — announced Monday that it had opened an investigation under paragraph six of the code, which says MPs “must always be open and frank in declaring any relevant interest” they hold.
Although the watchdog does not detail the specific interest under investigation, the prime minister has recently faced questions over his wife Akshata Murty’s stake in childcare business Koru Kids following a £4bn boost for the sector in last month’s Budget.
A Downing Street spokesperson said Monday: “We are happy to assist the commissioner to clarify how this has been transparently declared as a ministerial interest.”
Sunak wrote to the House of Commons liaison committee earlier this month saying his interest in the firm had been declared in the yet-to-be-published list of ministerial interests. It is not currently listed in the separate register of interests filled out by each MP.
The list of ministerial interests is long overdue for publication, having not been updated for almost 12 months. In February, Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden promised the Commons it would come before next month.
In the committee letter, written on 4 April, Sunak noted “media interest” in his wife’s “minority stake” in the firm, adding: “I would like to clarify for the parliamentary record that this interest has rightly been declared to the Cabinet Office.”
He added: “The latest list of ministerial interests will be published shortly by the independent adviser, Sir Laurie Magnus.”
Koru Kids is expected to benefit from new incentive payments of £600 for childminders joining the profession, a sum which doubles if they have signed up through an agency.
The firm, which is one of six agencies listed on the government’s website, praised the “great” new incentive on their own site, adding childminders would receive double if they “come through an agency like Koru Kids who offer community, training and ongoing support.”
News of the probe was seized on by Labour, with Deputy Leader Angela Rayner saying of the register of ministers’ interests: “If Rishi Sunak has got nothing to hide, he should commit to publishing the register before May’s elections so the public can see for themselves.”
Labour’s Keir Starmer has faced his own recent brush with the MP code of conduct.
Last summer the standards commissioner found that the opposition leader failed to declare eight interests on time. The watchdog concluded that the breaches were “minor and/or inadvertent, and that there was no deliberate attempt to mislead.”