PM Rishi Sunak's Wife's Infosys Shares Raise Conflict Of Interest Concerns in Proposed India-UK Trade Deal

PM Rishi Sunak's Wife's Infosys Shares Raise Conflict Of Interest Concerns in Proposed India-UK Trade Deal

Opposition Labour Party and trade experts are questioning the full financial impact as Infosys, co-founded by Akshata's father Narayana Murthy, stands to benefit from any such trade deal.

FPJ News ServiceUpdated: Sunday, August 27, 2023, 09:19 PM IST
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UK PM Sunak, his wife figure on 'Asian Rich List 2022' in UK | File pic

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak could face transparency questions related to wife Akshata Murty's Infosys shares, which are worth an estimated £500 million, in a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with India, said a media report.

Opposition Labour Party and trade experts are questioning the full financial impact as Infosys, the Bengaluru-headquartered software service major co-founded by Akshata's father Narayana Murthy, stands to benefit from any such trade deal, according to The Observer.

Context of Trade Deal and PM's Visit

This comes against the backdrop of India and the UK negotiating an FTA and also as Sunak prepares for his first visit to India as British Prime Minister for the G20 Leaders’ Summit in September.

“As the Prime Minister recently learned, it’s important he declares any interests properly. I expect him to do so in respect of the India trade deal too,” said Darren Jones, Labour MP and chair of the House of Commons Business and Trade Select Committee that has been scrutinising the FTA talks.

Past Oversight and Rectification

Sunak had inadvertently failed to correctly declare his wife’s shares in childminding firm Koru Kids, which stood to benefit from the government’s budget policy, the parliamentary watchdog had concluded in a report it had released earlier this week. The matter was closed after Sunak apologised for the “inadvertent” breach that arose “out of confusion”.

Infosys is known to want to improve access to the UK for its thousands of contract workers through changes to the visa regime, the report in the Observer contended.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has even warned the Business and Trade Select Committee against conducting a trip to India in the coming months to examine issues around a potential deal, according to the publication. “The committee was advised by the government that it would be better to visit India next year instead of during sensitive trade negotiations,” Jones said.

India will be looking for opportunities to grow software services in the trade deals as they are one of India’s biggest export sectors, according to Alan Manning, a professor of economics at the London School of Economics. “As the Prime Minister’s family may have a direct financial interest in any deal on immigration, he should recuse himself from this part of the negotiations to avoid any perception of conflict of interest,” he said.

Potential Trade Concessions

Meanwhile, The Sunday Times has reported that India is prepared to cut tariffs on Scotch whisky and British cars and parts by at least a third if the UK is prepared to slash its workers’ tax to clinch an FTA. New Delhi is pushing London to sign a social security agreement similar to deals it has signed with countries such as Canada, Australia and France that could exempt Indian workers from social security contributions if they continue to make payments in India, according to reports.

“The social security agreement is a very important thing for us. It creates a lot of ill will if folks have to surrender a significant amount of their savings,” the newspaper quoted an Indian source as saying.

The reports come as UK Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch held bilateral talks with her counterpart Piyush Goyal in India during a visit for a G20 trade meet. Goyal said they discussed ways to “add further momentum” to the India-UK FTA negotiations for a “mutually beneficial deal”.

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