The government has been accused of creating a “transparency black hole” after it emerged that Rishi Sunak is under investigation for allegedly failing to declare an interest when being questioned by parliament’s liaison committee on 28 March.
Last month, chancellor Jeremy 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.
Rishi Sunak’s wife is a minority shareholder in childcare agency Koru Kids, which is set to benefit from the scheme. But the prime minister did not mention her links to the firm when questioned by MPs over why the financial announcement favoured private firms.
At the liaison committee last month, which is parliament’s mechanism for scrutinising the prime minister, Mr Sunak was asked by Labour MP Catherine McKinnell if he had any interests to declare on childcare policy. The prime minister replied: “All my disclosures are declared in the normal way”.
The investigation — which was opened last Thursday according to the parliamentary website — will be undertaken by parliamentary commissioner for standards Daniel Greenberg.
Reacting to the news, Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: “another day and another accusation of a Conservative prime minister bending the rules”.
“After months of Conservative sleaze and scandal, the public just want a government who are focused on the country, rather than saving their own skin”, she added.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “This government’s failure to update the rules or publish a register of ministers’ interests in nearly a year has left a transparency black hole which is enabling the Prime Minister and those he has appointed to dodge proper scrutiny of their affairs
“If Rishi Sunak has got nothing to hide, he should commit to publishing the register before May’s elections so the public can see for themselves”.
The probe by the standards commissioner relates to paragraph six of the code of conduct for MPs, which is about declaring interests.
The section reads: “Members must always be open and frank in declaring any relevant interest in any proceeding of the House or its committees, and in any communications with ministers, members, public officials or public office holders.”
Responding to the investigation, a No 10 spokesperson said: “We are happy to assist the commissioner to clarify how this has been transparently declared as a ministerial interest”.