Rishi Sunak was rebuked by the UK's parliamentary panel for maintaining standards for a "minor and inadvertent breach" of confidentiality rules related to an investigation into the Prime Minister's declaration of wife Akshata Murty's financial interests in a childcare firm.
The investigation of the House of Commons Committee on Standards arose in the context of the confidentiality rules that applied to an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards into whether Sunak had breached paragraph 6 of the ministerial code relating to the declaration of interests.
Last month, the parliamentary watchdog had concluded that Sunak's failure to reference his wife's shares in Koru Kids arose out of "confusion and was accordingly inadvertent". The related inquiry by the Standards Committee arose around whether his Downing Street spokesperson broke rules over such investigations being confidential until completed.
"The committee concludes that the breach of confidentiality was inadvertent and that Mr Sunak has acknowledged this, so the Committee does not recommend any sanction," the committee said.
"This was a minor and inadvertent breach of the Code. Mr Sunak's staff should not have issued any statement about the details of the case under investigation without the approval of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. The Commissioner has made clear that it had no impact on his inquiry. Nevertheless, it constitutes a breach that should not have occurred," it notes.
"However, Mr Sunak acknowledges that with hindsight, he would have followed a different course of action. The Committee would remind the Prime Minister, and all Ministers, like all other MPs, that it is their responsibility, as individuals, to ensure that such breaches do not occur," it concludes.
Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Daniel Greenberg's investigation began in March in the wake of the government's Spring Budget, which included a pilot scheme of incentive payments of GBP 600 for childminders joining the profession, a sum that doubles to GBP 1,200 if they sign up through an agency.
Koru Kids was one of six childminder agencies in England listed on the government's website when the policy was announced, and Akshata Murty was listed as a shareholder in the most recently filed paperwork for the business on Companies House.
Greenberg's findings ended with a "rectification procedure" and without any sanction after he concluded that Sunak believed he had declared the interest as required but inadvertently confused two different sets of processes involved. However, as his findings included a breach of confidentiality rules, it had to be referred to the Parliament's Committee on Standards – a process which concluded this week.
(With inputs from agency)