Rishi Sunak has a 'blind trust' – what is it and should you get one too?

Sam Benstead
·3-min read
Rishi Sunak - Jonathan Brady/PA
Rishi Sunak - Jonathan Brady/PA

Chancellor the Exchequer Rishi Sunak registered a "blind trust" in July 2019 after he became Chief Secretary to the Treasury under then-chancellor Sajid Javid.

Blind trusts are supposed to reduce conflicts of interests for politicians  – but what exactly are they, and do they work?

What is a blind trust?

A blind trust puts someone’s assets under the complete control of a third party. This means Mr Sunak 's investment portfolio is manged by someone else and he does not receive any information on trades that are made or how it is performing. 

Who runs them?

It depends who is selected as the trustee. It could be a financial adviser, or a trusted friend or relative. 

Why does he have one?

Blind trusts allow ministers to relinquish control and knowledge of their financial interests which in theory prevents conflicts of interests.

Ministers are obliged to release information about their investments and relationships which may have an impact on their job in government but using a blind trust is a way to avoid disclosing exact asset details.

Mr Sunak is the first chancellor to use one since 2009 when ministers were first required to make their financial interests public. 

Theresa May set up a blind trust in 2007 to manage a stock portfolio worth an estimated £145,000.

David Cameron, her predecessor as Prime Minister, never had a blind trust when he was at Number 10. He sold all his shares in June 2010, instead.

A Treasury spokesman said: “Blind trusts are longstanding mechanisms for protecting ministers in the handling of their interests. They ensure ministers are not involved in any decisions on the management, acquisition or disposal of items in the arrangement.

"Politicians of all stripes have used blind trusts to ensure they avoid any conflict of interest, including the last Labour Government. The Cabinet Office has set out what are judged to be the relevant interests in the regular list of ministerial interests.”

Do they work?

A blind trust does prevent the owner from knowing how their investment portfolio is managed. This means in theory that they do not make policy decisions which could benefit the companies whose shares they own.

However, Spotlight on Corruption, a transparency campaigner, noted that the trustor, who sets up the trust, knows what goes inside it when it is created. This means that the younger the trust, the more they know about its contents.

Who else has them in government?

There are seven sitting government ministers with blind trust arrangements, according  to Spotlight on Corruption. This includes Mr Sunak and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, the only other cabinet minister on the list.

Can I set up a blind trust?

Establishing a blind trust involves signing away the control the assets to a third party. It is recommended that lawyers advise on granting a third party power of attorney over a trust's assets. The trustee, who takes control of the assets on someone's behalf, can seek advise from professional investment managers.