Tag Archives: conflict

Rishi Sunak is causing yet another conflict-of-interest – CORRUPTION – row

Akshata Murty and her husband, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak: it seems that, days after being forced to apologise for failing to declare that she (and therefore he) will benefit from one policy of the government he leads, he is trying to ensure that they will – corruptly? – benefit from another.

The UK prime minister who came into office promising “integrity, professionalism and accountability” is embroiled in yet another corruption/conflict-of-interest row involving his wife’s father’s multinational corporation, Infosys.

Rishi Sunak is trying to negotiate a free trade deal with India, where Infosys is based, and the allegation is that this will be hugely profitable for Infosys – and therefore, by proxy, for Sunak himself.

People are asking the obvious question:

Note that it is unlikely that the people of the UK will benefit from this free trade deal, according to Jemma Forte; Sunak is negotiating a deal to benefit his family – again.

Remember: Parliament’s Commissioner for Standards has only just stated that Sunak broke the Ministerial Code – “inadvertently” – by failing to declare that a childcare firm in which his wife has shares will benefit from a change in Tory government policy. In the current instance, there can be no such excuse as we have the evidence in advance of the deal.

Infosys is also a multiple offender in terms of preferential treatment from Sunak’s government. After war broke out between Russia and Ukraine, that firm was told to stop operating in Russia or face sanctions like all the other businesses then doing business with that state, but eight months later it was found still to be doing business there, with impunity against the UK’s sanctions regime.

Sunak is expected to attend a G20 summit in India in two weeks – and to discuss the trade deal at a separate, bilateral, meeting with that nation’s prime minister Narendra Modi.

But Keir Starmer’s opposition party (still currently known as Labour, for reasons unknown) has called for Sunak to make an open declaration about his wife’s financial interests in a company that could profit immensely from his involvement in these negotiations.

One expert – Professor Alan Manning of the London School of Economics, according to The Guardian, wants the prime minister to recuse himself from any negotiations.

In response, it seems the Foreign Office has warned the Labour-chaired business and trade select committee not to visit India to examine the issues around a potential deal. The government department is refusing to help committee members set up meetings with Indian officials and businesspeople.

It seems clear, then, that Sunak has something to hide once again – otherwise, why try to cover up what will happen at the negotiations?

The deal, it seems, will allow Infosys to send teams of its Indian employees to the UK to work on outsourced IT contracts for firms in this country.

Why not employ home-grown expertise and keep the contracts – and all the profits arising from them – in the UK? Or has previous Tory government policy ensured that nobody here has the required expertise any more?

Of course, the controversy will only intensify the debate over MPs having business interests outside the House of Commons, or receiving donations and/or gifts-in-kind from businesses or corporate bosses.

The question here is: who does Rishi Sunak work for – the people of the UK or his wife’s family firm?

The answer seems obvious – with the best interests of the nation he is supposed to lead coming a distant second.

Reform is urgently required – but with so many Parliamentarian snouts firmly in the trough, there seems to be no will to put a stop to the corporate influence that is staining all of us with the filth of corruption. How do we force an end to it?


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Sunak’s ‘inadvertent’ conflict of interest shows he is not fit to govern

Childcare shareholder Akshata Murty and her husband, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak: her firm should forgo any benefit from the new Tory policy, just to rid itself of the stain of corruption with which he has tarred it. And his serial “inadvertency” means he is not fit to govern.

Rishi Sunak and his government gets away with it – yet again.

I think this comment on the latest Tory corruption saga is highly relevant:

Yes, this is the story of how a new government policy, announced in the spring Budget, was geared to give huge amounts of money to a childcare company in which Rishi Sunak’s wife Akshata Murty has shares; he and his family would have benefited – but he did not declare it.

This is a breach of the Ministerial Code and an investigation was duly requested.

Now, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has reported back – and said the failure to declare the conflict of interest was “inadvertent”. No further action will be taken.

In fairness, Sunak made a grovelling apology for failing to reveal that this government policy would make his family richer:

And the Prime Minister’s press secretary has said: “The commissioner’s investigation into the Prime Minister’s declaration of interest has been resolved by way of rectification. The Prime Minister takes seriously his responsibilities to register and declare all relevant interests.”

That’s all very well, but Sunak and his family are set to benefit from his omission to mention this interest, and that isn’t right. Nobody should use a position of power to feather their own nest.

So Ms Murty’s firm should be excluded from the list of those that are to benefit from this government policy – if only to rid itself (and the Tory government) of the stain of corruption with which Sunak has tarred it. Right?

Isn’t it odd that we don’t see that happening?

And it seems Sunak leads a government that is guilty of serial inadvertency:

That’s a lot of forgetfulness.

It encourages me to believe that none of these Tories are likely to remember important facts when they are needed – and this could cause serious harm to the UK and its people, given the seriousness of the crises we are currently being forced to endure.

By their own admission, Sunak and his party are not fit to govern.

People of Chipping Barnet: Theresa Villiers is the kind of MP you DON’T want

Theresa Villiers: she says her failure to declare £70,000 worth of shares in Shell was an “oversight”. Was it really, though? What else has she failed to share?

This is shocking: when she was the government member charged with caring for our environment, Theresa Villiers had £70,000 worth of shares in mass-polluter Shell oil.

She is the MP for Chipping Barnet, where constituents should be outraged that she has been working for the enrichment of that firm (and therefore increased profits for herself) rather than in their interests.

That firm recently announced profits of $5 billion (US), which is admittedly down from the £7.7 billion (UK) it made in the first quarter of 2023. Of that, £6 billion found its way into the bank accounts of shareholders like Ms Villiers.

Shell stock is currently worth around £24 – higher than the £19.41 when Ms Villiers left office as Environment Secretary, so she’s making a bit of a killing.

She says her failure to declare this enormous conflict of interest was an oversight that won’t happen again:

The only reason it won’t happen again is that she has been caught red-handed and knows she can’t hide this any more.

What else has she been hiding, though?

It seems clear that there is only one way to keep this woman from lying – call it what it is – about business interests that create conflicts with her duty to the nation.

That is to ensure that she cannot have a job in which such conflicts arise.

If Ms Villiers is more interested in making money for herself than in safeguarding the interests and well-being of the United Kingdom as a whole, then she should be forced back into the private sector.

No doubt she’ll quickly find work with a firm that has profited from UK government policy.

She might do well by sending her CV to Shell.


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Tory conflict-of-interest watch: health minister’s wife gets NHS health contracts

Neil O’Brien: why has he been allowed to work in a government department that hands out contracts to his wife’s firm?

Here’s another Tory conflict of interest – and it’s nepotism again, too.

Like prime minister Rishi Sunak, the Conservative minister for Primary Health Care – Neil O’Brien – is married to a woman with an interest in a private firm that receives government contracts.

His wife Jemma is GP engagement lead at Circle Health, which receives public money from the Tories to perform operations at its 54 private hospitals (Circle was the first private health firm to take over an NHS hospital).

 

What is this man doing in a government department that may hand contracts to a company where his wife works?

It’s a clear conflict of interest.

And it’s actually a miracle that we’ve found out about it from the new MPs’ register of interests, that has attracted ridicule for failing to list all of the businesses that are at least part-owned by Sunak’s wife Akshata Murty.

From the Mirror article:

Mr Sunak has been accused of a “complete lack of transparency” over his own wife’s investments.

The list of interests did not include details of the shareholdings owned by his heiress wife, Akshata Murty.

Under the section for relevant interests held by a spouse or close relative, Mr Sunak’s entry included his wife’s venture capital company Catamaran Ventures and unnamed “direct shareholdings”.

A footnote adds that these include her “minority shareholding” in Koru Kids, but no details were given for any of her other shareholdings.

Farcically, the list did not include her £468million stake in Infosys, the Indian IT firm founded by her billionaire father.

And Infosys get government contracts, of course.

Corrupt?


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Sharp resigns as BBC chairman after report finds conflicts of interest

Cronyism? Richard Sharp (left) and Boris Johnson.

We all knew this was going to happen; it was just a matter of time.

Richard Sharp has resigned as BBC Chairman after an investigation found he did not mention “potential perceived” conflicts of interest before his appointment to the role.

These include telling then-prime minister Boris Johnson that he wanted to apply for the role before doing so, and arranging a meeting between Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and Simon Blyth, a distant cousin of Johnson’s who wanted to provide financial support to the then-prime minister (the sum of £800,000 has been mentioned in the past). It seems that meeting did not take place.

The investigation did not pass judgement on whether Sharp had any intention to influence the former PM. This would be impossible to gauge unless Sharp actually admitted it.

The report by barrister Adam Heppinstall found “there is a risk of a perception that Mr Sharp was recommended for appointment” because he sought to assist the PM in a private financial matter “and/or that he influenced the former prime minister to recommend him by informing him of his application before he submitted it”.

It is likely that the conclusion is phrased in this way because it is impossible to say for certain whether either act influenced Johnson without Johnson admitting it, and that was never likely to happen.

The report notes that Sharp did not accept the first finding but has apologised for the second. He has called the breach of public appointment rules “inadvertent and not material”.

The problem is, he did not mention either matter to the appointments panel during the scrutiny process that took place before he took up the role as BBC Chairman, so its members did not have an opportunity to consider for themselves whether these matters were inadvertent and immaterial.

And he should have mentioned them, because it is specifically demanded in the Cabinet Office’s Governance Code: “If you have any interests that might be relevant to the work of the BBC, and which could lead to a real or perceived conflict of interest if you were to be appointed, please provide details in your application.”

Instead, the potential conflicts of interest were revealed by The Sunday Times in January, triggering a wave of speculation and condemnation.

No other applicant was able to indicate an interest in the job to Boris Johnson in advance, remember. And it seems a pre-briefing in October 2020 sought to influence other potential candidates not to apply for the role because Johnson had Sharp in mind for it.

Sharp’s claim that he knew nothing of Boris Johnson’s financial affairs when arranging the meeting between Mr Case and Mr Blyth rings false; how would he have known Johnson might want a loan otherwise?

And it seems unrealistic that a man with years of experience in the business world would not realise there would be a perceived conflict of interest because of his having been involved in facilitating a possible loan to the then-prime minister.

Sharp was questioned strongly about the matter by the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee – one of whose members, SNP MP John Nicolson, said afterwards: “It leaves the impression so much of this is deeply ‘Establishment’; it’s pals appointing pals, donating money to pals.

“It rather leaves the impression that it is all a bit… ‘banana republic’ and cosy.”

The committee’s conclusion was that Sharp’s conduct showed serious errors of judgement.

In that case, it is right that he should go. He might commit similar errors as BBC boss.

The question is: what happens next?

The Sharp affair has raised serious questions about cronyism in public appointments.

Until the public can be reassured that no such ‘Establishment’ or ‘banana republic’ behaviour is taking place, it seems unlikely that we will ever trust the terms on which any other such public appointment takes place.

Who’s going to be the next BBC chair – Owen Paterson?


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Were you alarmed by the ’emergency alert’ test? Either way, this might trouble you

Alert: apparently the contract for the smartphone test that happened yesterday (April 23, 2023) was given to Fujitsu, the firm that bungled the Horizon Post Office software – and which immediately sub-contracted it to Infosys, the firm run by UK prime minister Rishi Sunak’s father-in-law, in which his wife holds millions of pounds worth of shares. Conflict of interest?

It seems the test of the ’emergency alert’ signal on everybody’s smartphone may be another example of Tory nepotism and corruption.

Here’s how:

The contract certainly went to Fujitsu – I have found articles here and here supporting that claim.

I have yet to find proof that it was sub-contracted to Infosys, although it is certainly true that the company owned by UK prime minister Rishi Sunak’s father-in-law, in which his wife holds millions of pounds worth of shares, has worked on other such systems in the past. If anybody can confirm or deny the claim, This Site would like to hear about it.

The Cabinet Office has been contacted for comment.

If it is the case, then I cannot recall Sunak ever declaring this interest when the contract was handed out. At a time when he is under investigation for failing to declare his interest in another government contract handed out to one of his wife’s companies… might this be damaging for him?

ADDITIONAL: A Government spokesperson said“This is completely untrue – there are no connections with Infosys in the running of the Emergency Alerts system.”

More information to follow in an article later.


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Murty’s meltdown? Firm connected to PM’s wife loses millions

Akshata Murty and her husband, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak: has she been using her connection with a leading UK politician to gain advantages for her firms? Is she now losing support after Sunak fell under investigation for a possible conflict of interest? Or is it all just coincidental?

A firm connected to Rishi Sunak’s wife Akshata Murty has lost a fortune on the stock exchange.

The losses are being reported on the day an investigation was launched into whether Sunak failed to correctly report a conflict of interest; Ms Murty is a shareholder in a firm that will profit from a Budget incentive to recruit childminders.

It seems another of her investments that made the headlines because of government policy has taken a major loss on the stock market.

Remember Infosys, the company that carried on trading in Russia after the government sanctioned such firms?

Infosys claimed in April last year that it was closing its office in Russia – providing a lucky escape for the then-Chancellor, who had refused to take any action about the company’s continued commercial interest in a country that the UK should have been shunning.

Then – exactly a month ago – we discovered that Infosys was still operating in Russia, eight months after it said it would withdraw, and had been given a £1.8 million government contract in spite of this.

Now:

So her shares, which were worth £400 million this morning, are now worth £351 million – in a company for which, like Koru Kids, Sunak broke – or at least seriously bent – government rules.

Had she been using her connection with a leading UK politician to gain advantages for her firms? Is she now losing support after Sunak fell under investigation for a possible conflict of interest?

Or is it a coincidence? It will be interesting to find out.


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Rishi Sunak investigated by standards commissioner over childcare conflict of interest

Partners in (the) climb: Akshata Murty and her husband, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak.

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak is facing investigation over whether he properly declared his wife’s interest in a childcare agency that may benefit from a new policy announced in the spring Budget.

Sunak’s wife Akshata Murty is listed as a shareholder in Koru Kids, a childcare agency that is likely to benefit from a pilot scheme offered by Jeremy Hunt to incentivise people to become childminders, with £1,200 offered to those who train to become one through an agency.

It is believed that he is being investigated over whether a declaration of interest in this organisation was “open and frank”, under rules set out by the commissioner for standards.

This Site has discussed the situation previously, here. It seems the authorities got around the question of Sunak having to grant permission to be investigated by the independent adviser on ministerial interests (Laurie Magnus) by handing it to the standards commissioner (Daniel Greenberg).

This Writer doubts the investigation will lead to any great censure of Sunak.

The initiative to encourage people to become childminders may very well benefit children and carers alike – because it is calculated to bring more people into the job market, which is what the Tories want.

Ms Murty is not the only business boss who will benefit from it, and indeed Koru Kids is not her only business interest, so it can hardly be argued that the policy was introduced purely as a money-spinner for the prime minister and his family.

Still, he did fail to declare his interest to the Commons Liaison committee when asked, and not only should he be made to apologise and correct the record, but he should also take steps to ensure that every other government minister knows they have an obligation to list their own interests correctly, at appropriate times.

But what will happen next? Keep watching this space…


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Rishi Sunak in possible conflict of interest over childcare policy

Akshata Murty and her husband, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak: they’ve been called into question before, over a firm in which she has shares, that has been operating in Russia.

What’s going on here? Did Rishi Sunak know he had a conflict of interest over childcare policy – and not care – or did he really not realise that the policy related to him?

Here’s The Guardian:

Rishi Sunak is facing questions over a potential conflict of interest after it emerged a childcare firm part owned by his wife is to benefit from major changes in the budget.

The prime minister’s wife, Akshata Murty, is listed as a shareholder in Koru Kids, a childcare agency. Koru Kids is likely to benefit from a pilot scheme offered by Jeremy Hunt to incentivise people to become childminders, with £1,200 offered to those who train to become one through an agency.

Sunak did not mention his wife’s interest when speaking about the childcare changes at his appearance before the liaison committee on Tuesday. He was asked by the Labour MP Catherine McKinnell whether he had anything to declare. “No, all my disclosures are declared in the normal way,” he told McKinnell.

It is understood the Cabinet Office was told about Murty’s interest in Koru Kids previously but it was not deemed necessary to appear on the public register of ministerial interests, which was last updated in June 2022.

The register states that Sunak’s wife owns a venture capital investment company, Catamaran Ventures UK Ltd, without going into detail of any of its shareholdings.

It seems clear that Sunak’s family has a financial interest in Koru Kids, which has benefited from a recent change in government policy.

According to the Ministerial Code, members of the government must ensure that “no conflict arises, or could reasonably be perceived to arise, between their public duties and their private interests, financial or otherwise”.

The Liberal Democrats have written to Sir Laurie Magnus, the independent adviser on ministerial interests, asking him to investigate whether the Code has been broken.

But he cannot open any investigations without the permission of the prime minister – who is Rishi Sunak himself.

You see the problem?

Sunak is saying he hasn’t done anything wrong. But he’s not an impartial judge and this case needs somebody with no interest to judge it.

But Sunak can block that.

So what’s to be done?

Watch this space…

Source: Rishi Sunak’s childcare policy risks conflict of interest with wife’s firm | Rishi Sunak | The Guardian


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Families bereaved in Covid-19 crisis are being put off the inquiry into it by Tory-linked PR firm

Conflict of interest: why would companies that helped run the government’s publicity campaign about Covid-19 ever want to contact people who lost loved ones because of failures in that campaign?

People who lost loved ones while the Covid-19 pandemic raged through the UK are being put off contributing to the inquiry into what happened – because a PR firm that was hired to manage the government’s response to the crisis has been hired to help run it.

23Red, which worked on government messaging including hand hygiene advice and the “Stay at home” slogan, has been sub-contracted by the Tories’ favourite advertising firm, M&C Saatchi, to run part of the Covid inquiry’s “listening exercise”.

Apparently its role will be to “help the inquiry reach those most affected by the pandemic, so that they can share their experiences”.

The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group has pointed out the flaw in that argument: because 23Red worked for the government in its efforts to control Covid-19, the group says, it will either screen out people with the most harmful stories to tell, or those who were most affected will be put off participating.

In the Guardian report (link above), group spokesperson Susie Flintham is quoted as saying:

The fact is ‘many of those worst affected’ will question 23red’s motivations and integrity, and won’t feel comfortable engaging with a process they’re involved in.

“The fact that these PR companies have rebranded the listening exercise ‘every story matters’, suggests they don’t have a clue on how to reach those ‘most affected’.”

“Why is the inquiry paying a hefty sum of taxpayers money, during a cost of living crisis, to a company whose involvement will put people off participating in it? It feels self defeating and like a clear waste of resources.

“If the inquiry is serious about listening to those worst affected by the pandemic then it must give them a meaningful voice, which at the very least means allowing them to speak at each day of the hearings.”

The group’s concerns were raised at the inquiry by their counsel, Pete Weatherby KC, after reporting on the matter by the website Open Democracy:

The correct response to these concerns is to remove the companies from any involvement in the inquiry.

That has not happened.

Instead, the team carrying out the inquiry has said that no conflict of interest will arise because “M&C Saatchi and 23red do not have a decision making role with the inquiry, and they have no direct access to the inquiry’s legal team or the wider work of the inquiry.

“Additionally, M&C Saatchi and 23red will not be carrying out any of the listening or have any access to the experiences shared with the inquiry’s listening exercise. Their role is only to help the inquiry reach those most affected by the pandemic, so that they can share their experiences.”

I’m not convinced. You should not be convinced either.

In an inquiry that exists to collect the strongest evidence of the worst effects of the government’s response (or lack of it) to the Covid-19 pandemic, efforts to seek out the most important stories are paramount.

Yet the inquiry team has hired companies that were intimately linked with the government’s public relations campaign during that time – Boris Johnson’s efforts to play down the seriousness of the situation and to pretend that Tory policies were succeeding when they weren’t.

More than 200,000 people have died of Covid-19 – and most of those deaths could have been avoided if Johnson, Matt Hancock and their cronies had acted more quickly and in a more responsible way (rather than diverting vast amounts of money to hastily-set-up companies run by their friends, for equipment that did not work, for example).

And the number of deaths is still increasing, as I understand it.

It is not in the interests of these companies to seek out the most damning stories of government failures when they were responsible for even part of the government’s publicity campaigning.

I fear the Covid-19 inquiry is just another Tory sham.


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The Livingstone Presumption is now available
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Health Warning: Government! is now available
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The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
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