London, March 31 : UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been facing the heat after it emerged that his wife Akshata Murthy has shares in a childcare agency, which stands to gain from a new policy announced in the recent budget.
Koru Kids, which lists the PM’s billionaire wife as a shareholder, is likely to benefit from a scheme announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, which offers 1,200 pounds to individuals who train to become child-minders through an agency, The Guardian reported.
Appearing before the liaison committee this week, Sunak did not mention his wife’s interest when speaking about the childcare changes.
“No, all my disclosures are declared in the normal way,” he told Labour MP Catherine McKinnell when she asked him whether he had anything to declare.
The public register of ministerial interests, which was last updated in June 2022, only mentions that Akshata owns Catamaran Ventures UK Ltd, a venture capital investment company.
Wendy Chamberlain, the Liberal Democrat chief whip, wrote to Sir Laurie Magnus, the independent adviser on ministerial interests, highlighting the provision in the code that requires ministers to avoid conflicts between their public duties and private interests.
“The Prime Minister’s family does appear to have a relevant financial interest in Koru Kids – which has benefited from a recent change to government policy. There is a clear question as to whether articles 7.1 and 7.7 of the ministerial code have been breached,” The Guardian quoted Chamberlain as saying.
“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,” Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said.
Sunak’s spokeswoman said: “He has followed the process in terms of declaring his interests as set out in the ministerial code”.
She said the First Lady’s holdings in the agency were not in the public domain, but said they would be included in the updated statement of ministers’ interests, which will come out in May.
According to BBC, the new scheme could drive up the number of childminders entering the profession and generate more business for companies such as Koru Kids, which is listed as one of six childminder agencies on the government’s website.
The agency welcomed the government’s reforms on its website and said “the new incentives open to childminders are great”.The website says new childminders would get a bonus of 1,200 pounds if they “come through an agency like Koru Kids who offer community, training and ongoing support”.
Last year, Sunak and his wife entered The Sunday Times Rich List for the first time with their joint 730 million pound fortune.
Indeed, Akshata Murthy is said to be wealthier than even King Charles III due to her 430 million pounds stake in her billionaire tycoon father Narayana Murthy’s IT empire.