Rishi Sunak is facing an opposition move aimed at “forcing” him to come clean about his family’s tax affairs, as the under-pressure chancellor ordered a hunt for the source of any leaks.
A Whitehall probe has been launched in an attempt to find out if officials shared details of his wife Akshata Murty’s tax affairs, after The Independent revealed she was claiming non-domicile status.
The Liberal Democrats have now drawn up draft legislation which would compel all ministers to reveal whether they or their spouses claim non-dom status – and if they have holdings in overseas tax havens.
The bill set to be tabled when MPs return after easter would force ministers to disclose what overseas territories they pay tax in, and if they are listed as the beneficiaries of trusts in those jurisdictions.
“We have a draft law ready and waiting for when parliament returns, to force Sunak and other ministers to reveal if their households are not paying their fair share by using tax havens,” said Lib Dems’ Treasury spokesperson Christine Jardine.
If comes after The Independent also revealed claims that Mr Sunak was listed as a beneficiary of tax haven trusts in the British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands created to manage the financial affairs of his wife’s family’s interests.
The opposition move comes as Mr Sunak’s cabinet colleague Sajid Javid revealed that he had also claimed non-dom tax status between 2000 and 2006 in his previous life as a banker.
The health secretary also revealed that he had also benefited from an offshore trust during his time in the financial sector – defending it as “an entirely legitimate arrangement”.
In a statement to the Sunday Times, he said: “On becoming a minister in 2012, I decided to voluntarily collapse that trust, repatriate all assets to the UK and pay 50 per cent income tax on those assets.”
Labour accused Mr Javid of “hypocrisy” after the health secretary said last week that Britons had a “moral duty” to pay the levy to fund the NHS and social care.
Wes Streeting, shadow health secretary, said: “The luxury of being able to choose how much tax you pay, where you pay it, and when you pay it, is not one that is enjoyed by most people in this country.”
Meanwhile, Labour pressed Mr Sunak to urgently clarify whether he helped “shape” tax rules through the recent Finance Act 2022 to benefit wealthy investors with non-dom status.
Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, told Sky News on Sunday: “We don’t know for example, whether the chancellor declared a conflict of interest when he was making decisions on policies – there are some policies reported that do affect non-dom people.”
Mr Sunak’s team is said to believe that it is a Labour supporting official dubbed “red throat” is leaking information, as it also emerged that the chancellor’s family is moving out of Downing Street to their west London mews home.
Sources close to Mr Sunak played down reports that he was moving his wife and two daughters out to escape the media spotlight, after a photo showed removal vans arriving to take the family’s belongings away.
But one source said the Sunaks had always intended to spend more time in their west London home to be closer to their daughter’s school. Mr Sunak is now expected to stay in Downing Street during the week while joining them at weekends.
There is no suggestion that either Mr Sunak or Ms Murty have broken any laws through their tax arrangements. But the chancellor’s standing among Tory MPs has been rocked by details, and by Mr Sunak’s admission he held US green card during his first 19 months in Downing Street.
The chancellor was reportedly unhappy at the failure of colleagues to come to his defence over the last few days.
Home Office minister Kit Malthouse sought to defend Mr Sunak on Sunday, though he conceded on Sky News that Ms Murty’s non-dom status had created “a sense of disquiet” and was “not ideal”.
Asked if the chancellor was now political “toast”, the policing minister replied: “No, I don’t believe that. Rishi Sunak has been a remarkable force for good in this country over the last two years.”
Senior Tory MP Tobias Ellwood also backed the chancellor on Sunday, claiming he had “moved forward” from a series of questions over his tax arrangements. “There have been a lot of questions … and he’s answered them as best as he can,” he told Times Radio.