Labour to report Jeremy Hunt to watchdog over luxury flats scandal
Opposition says Health Secretary must answer to Parliamentary Standards Commissioner
Labour is to report Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to Parliament’s standards watchdog over what it calls his “illegal” failure to declare his investment in a development of luxury flats.
The cabinet minister was forced to make a “humiliating apology” on Thursday night, “after it emerged he had broken Conservative Party rules” after setting up a property firm with his wife, the Daily Mirror reports.
Hunt and his wife, Lucia Guo, established Mare Pond Properties Limited in September 2017. In February this year, the company purchased seven luxury flats at the Ocean Village development in Southampton.
However, The Daily Telegraph has revealed that it was not until March, six months after the firm was established, that Hunt declared his 50% interest in the firm to Companies House - well beyond the 14-day legal limit.
Under anti-money laundering laws introduced by the Conservative government in 2016, “failing to disclose interests to the agency is punishable by a fine or up to two years in prison,” says The Independent.
The delays also meant that his investment in the firm also did not appear on the parliamentary register of MPs’ interests within the mandated 28-day limit.
Hunt apologised for what he called an “honest administrative mistakes”, which he said resulted in no personal financial benefit.
A spokesperson for the millionaire minister said that the delays in filing were due to a “genuine oversight” on the part of his accountant, who was led to believe the firm should only be registered with Companies House when it became operational.
“As such, Jeremy presumed the same rules applied to parliamentary declarations,” the spokesperson said.
Labour has accused Hunt of trying to “sweep the scandal under the carpet” and demanded that his actions come under the scrutiny of Westminster’s standards watchdog.
“It appears Jeremy Hunt has taken part in illegal activity in his failure to declare his involvement in a luxury flat investment,” said Jon Trickett, shadow minister for the Cabinet Office.
“Labour will today refer Jeremy Hunt to the standards commissioner to look into this serious breach. He should have had the decency to refer himself rather than sweep this under the carpet,” Trickett added.
A Downing Street spokesperson said that the Cabinet Office “have made clear there has been no breach of the ministerial code”, adding: “We consider the matter closed.”
However, Sir Alistair Graham, former chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, told the Telegraph that failure to penalise Hunt for the oversight risked giving the impression of “one rule for the political elite and another rule for the rest of the population”.