Rishi Sunak faced questions last night over his failure to publicly declare the fact that his wife is a director of a luxury clothing store which received money under the Treasury’s multi-billion-pound furlough scheme.
A new biography of the Chancellor reveals that his wife, Akshata, is the director of the holding company for New & Lingwood, an official outfitter to Eton which offers items such as £2,750 silk dressing gowns.
The book, Going For Broke: The Rise Of Rishi Sunak, by former Tory Party deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft, says staff at the firm’s London store were furloughed during the first lockdown. Under the Chancellor’s job support scheme, the Government would have covered up to 80 per cent of the salaries of such staff.
Rishi Sunak faced questions last night over his failure to publicly declare the fact that his wife is a director of a luxury clothing store which received money under the Treasury’s multi-billion-pound furlough scheme. Pictured: The Chancellor with his wife, Akshata
The Ministerial Code says Ministers have a responsibility to list interests of a spouse which might be directly relevant to their portfolio. Critically, it states Ministers should ensure that no conflict ‘could reasonably be perceived to arise’ between their public duties and their private interests.
Yesterday sources close to Mr Sunak said he had declared his wife’s business interests to senior civil servants when he first entered the Treasury in 2019 – long before he unveiled the furlough scheme. But the information is not listed in a public record.
The book, which is being serialised in today’s Mail on Sunday, reports that Mr Sunak, 40, has also failed to publicly declare that Akshata is a director of the Digme Fitness chain and of the Soroco software development firm.
Lord Ashcroft reveals the heavy toll the crisis has taken on Mr Sunak, with staff left worried about the impact his intense efforts to limit the pandemic’s economic damage are having on his health. The peer quotes a Treasury source as saying: ‘The day before he announced the furlough scheme, one of our economic advisers put a sandwich on his desk and said “You must eat”, because he just wasn’t eating… He was looking thin and faint.’
Another source is quoted as saying: ‘Rishi is feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders. He’s been working 18 hours a day. He’s physically and psychologically exhausted.’ And another insider said: ‘Everyone who works for him keeps telling him he needs to take a break. In the summer, he took three days, nominally for a holiday, but even those days he was working. He’s definitely a bit greyer.’
The book also tells the story of Mr Sunak’s relationship with Akshata, and how her father Narayana Murthy, a tech billionaire dubbed ‘the Bill Gates of India’, admitted a ‘twinge of jealousy’ about her husband.
In an open letter to his daughter, he wrote: ‘I found him to be all that you had described him to be – brilliant, handsome, and most importantly, honest. I understand why you let your heart be stolen. It was then that I reconciled to sharing your affections with him.’
The book also reveals Mr Sunak, 40, (pictured) has also failed to publicly declare that Akshata is a director of the Digme Fitness chain and of the Soroco software development firm
The couple were married in November 2009, initially basing themselves in California, where they still own a £5.5 million penthouse.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister’s independent adviser on ministerial interests has confirmed that he is completely satisfied with the propriety of arrangements and that appropriate measures have been put in place where necessary to avoid any conflict of interest.’
A Treasury source said that when Mr Sunak was appointed as Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2019, he held a meeting with the department’s head of propriety and ethics to ensure everything that needed to be declared was declared.
The source said: ‘The Permanent Secretary’s office has confirmed that they are aware of the Chancellor and his wife’s financial interests and satisfied that appropriate measures have been put in place to avoid any conflict of interest.’
The source added that the Government was ‘not at liberty to disclose which firms have accessed the furlough scheme’.
The Treasury said Mr Sunak ‘has followed the ministerial code to the letter’.