The Chancellor has requested an independent investigation into his own conduct.
11 April 2022
Embattled Rishi Sunak has “paid all of his taxes” and been very candid about his financial arrangements, a Cabinet colleague insisted after the Chancellor requested an investigation into his own actions.
Mr Sunak referred himself to Boris Johnson’s independent adviser on ministerial interests as he sought to fend off questions over his family’s finances.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Sunak asked that Lord Geidt should review all his declarations of interest since he became a minister in 2018 to ensure they had been properly stated.
He said he was confident he had acted appropriately at all times, but his “overriding concern” was that the public should have confidence in the answers.
Cabinet colleague George Eustice said Mr Sunak was the Chancellor “at the moment” and had paid all relevant UK taxes.
Mr Sunak’s political career is at risk of being derailed by the row over his wife’s non-domiciled status and his own former holding of a US green card.
The Chancellor’s decision to request an investigation by Lord Geidt was the latest attempt to defuse the political storm that has engulfed him.
An announcement on Friday by his wife, Akshata Murty, that she would pay UK taxes on all her worldwide income failed to stem the criticism.
Environment Secretary Mr Eustice faced questions from broadcasters on Monday about the row.
“Rishi Sunak and his wife have spoken for themselves on this. I’m not his accountant, I’m not responsible, obviously, for his tax affairs or those indeed of his wife,” Mr Eustice told Sky News.
“She gave a statement over the weekend, she’s now made clear that although she hasn’t done anything wrong, she’s a citizen of India and grew up and was born in India, has some income from that, nevertheless she’s changing her tax arrangements so that she would pay the tax on that income here in the UK.”
Mr Sunak had been “very clear that he’s been very candid about his own arrangements at every stage”, he added.
Mr Eustice rejected suggestions that Mr Sunak was “too rich” to be a chancellor or potential prime minister.
“I don’t think it’s right that we should have a rule that says you’re too wealthy to be able to do a role – what matters is the knowledge, the technical expertise that you have,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“You can’t walk a mile in everyone’s shoes, all of us have different perspectives, different experiences in life, and for any MP, let alone minister, the single most important thing is an ability to empathise (with) people who might have had experiences and challenges in their life that you’ve personally not experienced.”
But Labour continued to press for answers on Mr Sunak’s arrangements and his wife’s business interests.
It has been estimated that her non-dom status could have saved her £20 million in taxes on dividends from her shares in Infosys, an Indian IT company founded by her father.
Public records show Infosys has received more than £50 million in UK public sector contracts since 2015 – with Labour arguing Mr Sunak should have registered an interest in the firm, because of his wife’s involvement.
Deputy leader Angela Rayner has written to the Prime Minister and Lord Geidt with a series of detailed questions about Mr Sunak’s family’s affairs which she said needed answering.
“A fish rots from the head. It is the Prime Minister’s responsibility to bring this debacle to a close by ensuring that standards are upheld across his Cabinet,” she said.
Shadow justice secretary Steve Reed told the Today programme he “absolutely” believed Mr Sunak had broken the ministerial code.
He said Mr Sunak “failed to declare his wife’s £690-million share-hold in Infosys, an IT company based in India, which has had, according to what we’ve been able to find out, 15 different one-to-one meetings with senior ministers, including the Prime Minister, and has been awarded multimillion-pound Government contracts”.
“Now, if the Chancellor’s household is benefitting from contracts of that kind, that should have been something that he declared in the register of interest, but he didn’t.
“There’s a whole list of areas where the Chancellor appears to have failed to declare things he should have declared.”
Mr Sunak has ordered a full-scale investigation by the Cabinet Office and the Treasury into who leaked details of his wife’s tax status to the Independent, which triggered the row.
Speculation at Westminster has suggested a Labour-sympathising civil servant or rivals in No 10 could have been behind the leaking of the confidential information.
Tensions between No 10 and the Chancellor have increased following a spring statement which was criticised for not doing enough to help address the cost-of-living crisis.
The Chancellor was also accused of resisting measures in the energy security strategy which could have increased public spending, leading to repeated delays in the plan which finally emerged last week.
Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, suggested a political attack was more likely than a leak from a disgruntled official.
“Civil servants have long-established whistleblowing procedures if they have concerns about impropriety, which makes it unlikely that they would want to go to the press on Rishi Sunak’s tax affairs,” he said.
The “vast majority of leaks come from the political world, be that special advisers, ministers or those around them”, he added, with the key question being: “Who has something to gain from this leak regarding Rishi Sunak’s tax affairs?”
The Prime Minister was forced to deny that No 10 was responsible for hostile briefing against Mr Sunak when he appeared at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday.