Environment secretary George Eustice has insisted he’s not “the accountant for cabinet colleagues” as he was quizzed on whether fellow ministers had ever held non-dom status.
It comes after Rishi Sunak has faced days of intense pressure following The Independent‘s revelation that his wife, Akshata Murty, whose father is one of India’s richest men, has been claiming non-domicile status.
In an attempt to draw a line under the controversy, and after Ms Murty said she would review her tax affairs, the chancellor requested on Sunday evening that Lord Geidt, Boris Johnson’s independent adviser on ministerial interests, review all his declarations since 2018.
Over the weekend Sajid Javid, the health secretary, also admitted to The Times that he held non-dom status between 2000 and 2006 — before he became an MP and while he was working for Deutsche bank.
The cabinet minister said he had qualified for the scheme, which enables an individual not to pay UK tax on their overseas income, because his father was born in Pakistan.
Asked whether he could anticipate anyone else in the cabinet coming forward after the health secretary’s admission, Mr Eustice told Sky News: “Well I don’t — all I can tell you is I’m not the accountant for my ministerial colleagues in cabinet.
“I don’t know anyone who may or may not have had non-dom status. I can tell you I never have, and would never seek to have one”.
Pressed on the chancellor’s controversial admission on Friday that he held a US green card — granting him permanent residence in America — Mr Eustice said he got “rid of it a couple of years ago”.
After being corrected by presenter Kay Burley, who pointed out Mr Sunak only returned the green card in October 2021, 19 months after he was appointed chancellor, he added: “Well, he’s got rid of the green card now.
“All I’m saying is he worked in the United States for a while, during that period he had a green, he kept that green card for a period after that but as I understand it, it hasn’t affected the tax he’s paid here in the UK.”
Mr Eustice also said he was not “an expert” on the green card system, saying: “I’ve never had one myself, nor would I ever seek to have one to be honest”.
The cabinet minister also dodged questions on whether he understood public anger over the revelations, pointing out Ms Murty was changing her tax arrangements in order to pay UK tax on overseas income.
“Rishi himself has written to the prime minister and asked the adviser on ministerial standards to look at this case,” he said. “He’s very clear, he’s declared everything that should have been declared at the right time.
“There is a process that you have as a minister — you declare all your interests to the permanent secretary in your department and the Cabinet Office then decide which bits should be made public.”
Shadow justice secretary Steve Reed, however, claimed the chancellor had broken the ministerial code, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Absolutely. But it’s not an isolated incident, there are other failures here as well.
The Labor frontbencher added: “He also failed to declare his wife’s £690-million share-hold in Infosys, an IT company based in India, which has had, according to what we’ve been able to find out, 15 different one- to-one meetings with senior ministers, including the prime minister, and have been awarded multimillion-pound government contracts.
“Now, if the chancellor’s household is benefiting from contracts of that kind that should have been something that he declared in the register of interest, but he didn’t.
“There’s a whole list of areas where the chancellor appears to have failed to declare things he should have declared.”