20230503 rishi sunak
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Image Credit: Reuters

London: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is under investigation over allegations he failed to disclose shares his wife owns in a child care business that stands to benefit from his government’s budget, a parliamentary watchdog disclosed.

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Daniel Greenberg opened an inquiry last week for possible violations of the code of conduct that calls on members to be “open and frank” in declaring relevant financial interests, according to an update given to members of Parliament who returned Monday from Easter break.

Parliament requires members to disclose financial interests within four weeks of something they said or actions they took that may have been influenced by a financial interest.

A Sunak spokesperson says he did not make a declaration as a member of parliament but had recorded a “ministerial interest,” the equivalent disclosure for government ministers.

The government’s budget announced last month includes a massive expansion of free child care for working families with children from 9 months to 4 years old. The plan included financial incentives to people who joined the child care profession and doubled the incentive if it was done through a private agency.

Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murthy, has shares in Koru Kids, which is listed on a government website as one of six such agencies. The organization praised the new incentives in the budget as “great.”

Sunak was asked to “come clean” about his family’s financial interests last month after being grilled by members of Parliament over why the child care policy favoured private agencies.

When asked if he had any interests to declare, Sunak did not mention his wife’s shares.

“No, all my disclosures are declared in the normal way,” he said.

At the time, Sunak’s press secretary said his interests would be included in an update of ministers’ interests in May.

Earlier this month, Sunak wrote to the Parliamentary committee that questioned him to say he wanted to clarify that “this interest has rightly been declared to the Cabinet Office.”

Sunak promised “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level” when he took office in October.

Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party, said the failure to update ministers’ interests since last May had “left a transparency black hole” that enabled Sunak and his appointees “to dodge proper scrutiny of their affairs.”