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Rishi Sunak is congratulated by Boris Johnson after delivering his Spring Statement (Photo: House of Commons - PA Images via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser has cleared Rishi Sunak of breaching the ministerial code over his family’s tax affairs.
The chancellor referred himself to Lord Geidt after it was revealed that his multi-millionaire wife, Akshata Murty, had “non-domicile” status, allowing her to avoid paying UK taxes on her foreign income.
Following a public backlash, Sunak wrote to Geidt saying he hoped referring his declarations for investigation would provide “further clarity” for the public.
In a letter to Johnson published on Wednesday, Geidt confirmed that he did not believe Sunak had broken the ministerial code.
He said: “I advise that the requirements of the ministerial code have been adhered to by the chancellor and that he has been assiduous in meeting his obligations and in engaging with this investigation.
“In reaching these judgments, I am confined to the question of conflicts of interest and the requirements of the ministerial code.
“My role does not touch on any wider question of the merits of such interests or arrangements.”
Sunak was plunged into the centre of a storm when The Independent revealed Murty’s non-dom status — which potentially saved her millions of pounds in UK taxes — as households up and down the country feel the impact of the rising cost of living.
Murty later announced that she would start paying UK rates of tax on her foreign wealth — derived from her shares in her billionaire father’s Indian company Infosys — to avoid the issue becoming a “distraction” for her husband.
Geidt said he had found two potential instances Murty’s tax status “could have given rise to a conflict of interest” for the chancellor but that “appropriate steps were taken”.
In the first instance he said the issue was properly declared, and in the second — concerning a proposed change in arrangement for some non-doms — had no bearing on Murty’s interests and that she was unaffected by the change.
“Therefore, in both instances, no conflict arose as a result of Murty’s nondomiciled tax status.”
Geidt also looked at claims that the chancellor continued to hold a US green card 18 months into his role in No. 11, as well as a blind investment trust set up when he was made chief secretary to the Treasury in July last year.
On the green card issue, Geidt said he did not believe that possessing one would constitute “an inherent conflict of interest”.
“Being subject to the obligations imposed by the card in his personal life could not reasonably be said to be in tension with the faithful discharge of his duties as chief secretary to the Treasury or as chancellor of the exchequer,” he wrote.
The ethics tsar also said he was satisfied that there was no conflict of interest over Sunak’s blind investment trust after he was assured by the chancellor that he does not have “live knowledge” of the contents.
Murty’s shareholding in Infosys was also “properly declared”, Geidt ruled, adding that it held no contracts with the Treasury while her husband has been at the helm.
The saga of Sunak’s tax affairs appears to have dented his popularity with Tory party members as well as his chances of succeeding Johnson as PM if he is ousted by MPs angry over partygate.
A recent chart compiled by the ConservativeHome website put his net rating at minus 5.2 on April 25 from 7.9 at the start of the month.
A survey by Ipsos taken in early April also found more Britons think Sunak is doing a bad job as chancellor, rather than a good job.
Up to 37 per cent now thought Sunak was doing a bad job while 30 per cent said he was doing a good job.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.