British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is being investigated by a parliamentary watchdog for his alleged failure to declare his wife’s shareholding in a childcare company that could benefit from a new government policy, the BBC reported on Monday.
The investigation pertains to shares that Sunak’s wife – businessperson Akshata Murthy – holds in childcare agency Koru Kids.
Last month, the United Kingdom government in its budget had introduced incentive payments of £600 (Rs 61,178) for new childminders, and £1,200 (Rs 1,22,356) for those joining through an agency, reported The Guardian. Childminders are those who look after children while their parents are away or are at work.
On March 28, Sunak was questioned about the childcare policy by legislators at a parliamentary committee hearing. At the time, he had reportedly not disclosed information about Murthy’s link to the agency.
However, a few days after the questioning, Sunak said his wife’s interest was declared to the Cabinet Office and that an updated statement about his interests would be shared, reported the BBC.
On April 13, the British Parliament’s Commissioner for Standards initiated an investigation into the matter.
A spokesperson for the prime minister’s office said it would be happy to “assist the commissioner to clarify how this has been transparently declared as a ministerial interest”.
The spokesperson said: “The prime minister has set out in his response to the Liaison Committee that he is confident the appropriate process has been followed to avoid or mitigate any potential conflict of interest, and that the interest of ministers’ spouses or partners is not something that would influence their actions either as ministers or as members of parliament.”
If the inquiry against Sunak finds him guilty of hiding the information, the parliamentary watchdog can ask him to apologise and take steps to avoid any future errors, reported Reuters. It can also refer him to a committee that has the power to suspend or expel him from parliament.
Last year, Sunak had been criticised in connection with Murthy’s non-domiciled tax status, which meant she did not pay tax in Britain on her earnings abroad. Following a public outcry, Murthy gave up the status and said she would pay British tax on her global income.