Sunak’s wife holds shares in childcare agency buoyed by Budget
Rishi Sunak’s wife is a shareholder in a childcare agency that will benefit from a major new policy announced in Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Budget.
The Prime Minister did not mention Akshata Murthy’s links to Koru Kids when he was questioned by MPs over why the financial announcement favoured private firms.
But, as first reported by the i newspaper, Companies House lists her as a shareholder in the firm as recently as March 6.
The Liberal Democrats said it raises “serious questions” for Mr Sunak and called for his ethics adviser, Sir Laurie Magnus, to investigate.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “Rishi Sunak must explain why he failed to come clean when asked about the shares his family held in a company now set to financially benefit from a childcare policy announced in his Budget.
“He must urgently correct the record and set out what steps he took to avoid an actual or perceived conflict of interest.
“No proper explanation has yet been provided by the Prime Minister as to why this was not deemed necessary to publish in the register of members’ interests.”
This month Mr Hunt announced a pilot of incentive payments of £600 for childminders joining the profession, a sum that doubles to £1,200 if they sign up through an agency.
Labour MP Catherine McKinnell quizzed Mr Sunak at the Liaison Committee on why the Budget was handing out a double bonus for childminders signing up through private agencies.
Asked on Tuesday by the chairwoman of the Petitions Committee if he had any interest to declare, Mr Sunak replied: “No, all my disclosures are declared in the normal way.”
He told Ms McKinnell the policy was “designed in consultation with the sector”.
Pressed on the rationale, he said: “I think it’s a reflection of the fact that they are through intermediaries so there are additional costs.
“And, ultimately, we want to make sure the policy is effective in bringing additional people into the system.”
He told her he would “happily write back” to the committee on “exactly what conversations were had and the rationale”.
Koru Kids is one of six childminder agencies listed on the Government’s website.
Welcoming the Budget, Koru Kids said on its website the “new incentives open to childminders are great”.
At yesterday’s @CommonsLiaison, I challenged @RishiSunak to say what every parent, the sector & 100,000s who have signed @HoCpetitions know: our #childcare system is in crisis.
Some Budget measures are an improvement, but if you don't recognise the problem, you can't fix it pic.twitter.com/HFkg9uUUTU
— Catherine McKinnell (@CatMcKinnell) March 29, 2023
It said a bonus of “£1,200 – yes double” would be paid “if you come through an agency like Koru Kids who offer community, training and ongoing support”.
Lib Dem chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: “There are serious questions for Rishi Sunak to answer over any potential conflict of interest, and any extra income his family could receive from his own Government’s policy.
“Too often we have seen Conservative sleaze run amok. The public must be reassured that any breach of the Ministerial Code by the Prime Minister will be fully investigated.”
A representative for Ms Murthy, the fashion-designer daughter of a billionaire, has been contacted for comment.
Mr Sunak mentions Ms Murthy’s venture capital company, Catamaran Ventures, in his list of ministerial interests, but does not mention Koru Kids.
Ministers are expected to provide a written list of all financial interests that might “give rise to a conflict”.
The “interests of their spouse, partner or close family members” are included in the information expected to be handed over.
But they may not appear on the finished list if there is deemed not to be an issue.
A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said: “As the PM said yesterday, all interests have been declared in the usual way.”
Mr Sunak’s press secretary later acknowledged that details of Ms Murthy’s holding in the agency were not in the public domain but indicated they would be included in the updated statement of ministers’ interests due out in May.
“The Ministerial Code sets out a process by which ministers declare their interests. They do that in writing, in this case to the Cabinet Secretary. That process was followed to the letter by the Prime Minister,” she said.