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Rishi Sunak finds himself in a ‘childcare pickle’ as shares controversy grows

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing an investigation by Parliament’s standards watchdog over allegations that he may have failed to declare his wife’s shares in a childcare agency that was boosted by the Budget. The inquiry is under rules that require MPs to be “open and frank” in declaring their interests.

The shares, held by Akshata Murthy in Koru Kids, are thought to be the subject of the investigation. A Downing Street source has confirmed this to the PA news agency. The Prime Minister’s office has stated that Mr Sunak will clarify how the shares were declared as a ministerial interest, rather than to the Commons.

Last month, Mr Sunak was questioned by MPs over why the childcare policy favoured private firms. This led to demands for Mr Sunak to “come clean” about his family shares. However, he did not mention Ms Murthy’s shares in the firm, in which she has been listed as a shareholder on Companies House.

The possible conflict of interest emerged after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced a pilot of incentive payments of £600 for childminders joining the profession, which doubled to £1,200 if workers signed up through an agency. Koru Kids, one of six childminder agencies listed on the Government’s website, welcomed the new incentives in the Budget as “great”.

However, the investigation appears to centre on whether the Prime Minister should have declared the interest to MPs. Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said the list of ministerial interests has not been updated for nearly a year, “leaving a transparency black hole which is enabling the Prime Minister and those he has appointed to dodge proper scrutiny of their affairs”.

The Prime Minister has previously stated his commitment to “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level”. However, this investigation comes after he was fined by police for not wearing a seatbelt, adding to a fixed-penalty notice he was handed for a lockdown breach alongside Mr Johnson. Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain criticised the government, saying “the public just want a government which is focused on the country, rather than saving their own skin.”