Will Rishi Sunak’s Wife Gain from India Trade Deal?

Ahead of the G20 summit in India, Rishi Sunak faces a conflict of interest row over claims that his family could benefit from the trade deal.

Will Rishi Sunak's Wife Gain from India Trade Deal?

"I expect him to do so in respect of the India trade deal"

Rishi Sunak faces a new conflict of interest row before a G20 summit in New Delhi in September 2023 over claims that his family could benefit financially from a trade deal that he is negotiating with India.

MP and trade experts say there are concerns over potential “transparency” issues relating to his wife Akshata Murty’s shareholding in Infosys.

Labour, and the chair of the all-party House of Commons Business and Trade Select Committee, called for Mr Sunak to be more open about his wife‘s financial interests, given that Infosys could benefit from any agreement.

One expert said he should recuse himself from the trade negotiations altogether.

Darren Jones, the Labour chair of the Business and Trade Select Committee, said:

“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.”

Rishi Sunak will attend the G20 summit in New Delhi and is expected to discuss the UK-India trade negotiations in a separate bilateral meeting with Narendra Modi.

Infosys is known to want to improve access to the UK for its contract workers through changes to the UK visa scheme.

Allowing more visas for its workers in sectors such as IT and artificial intelligence is a key demand for India.

Meanwhile, the UK is seeking reductions in the high tariffs on exports to India of goods including Scotch whisky and cars.

Due to the sensitivities over the negotiations and Mr Sunak’s involvement, the Foreign Office (FCDO) has warned Mr Jones’ committee in the strongest terms against conducting a trip to India to examine issues around a potential deal.

Mr Jones said: “The committee was advised by the government that it would be better to visit India next year instead of during sensitive trade negotiations.”

The FCDO has also indicated to the committee that it will not be able to help set up meetings for the MPs with Indian officials and business people.

Amid signs of tension between the MPs and FCDO, the committee will meet soon after.

Most of Rishi Sunak and Akshata Murty’s wealth comes from her family’s company Infosys, valued at £50 billion.

The controversy comes after the PM was reprimanded by parliament’s watchdog for failing to properly declare his wife’s separate shareholding in a childcare company that stood to benefit from new government policy.

The watchdog said Rishi Sunak had breached parliament’s code of conduct but did so inadvertently.

He now included mention of the childcare company in the register of ministerial interests.

But Mr Sunak did not make public his wife’s 0.94% holding in Infosys in the register, although Downing Street insisted that he declared it in the proper way to the relevant authorities, who do not require him to do so.

Alan Manning, a professor of economics at the London School of Economics, said:

“Software services are one of India’s biggest export sectors, and India will be looking for opportunities to grow them in their trade deals, including with the UK.

“Often this means seeking more liberal immigration laws as these businesses are about moving people around the world. Indian IT companies, including Infosys, are already among the biggest users of the UK’s work visa system and will want to expand further.

“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.”

Shadow trade secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said his party backed a trade deal with India “so it is important that he [the prime minister] is transparent about any relevant business links and his personal role in negotiations”.

A government spokesman said: “The prime minister and trade secretary are pursuing a trade deal with India in the best interests of the United Kingdom – to boost the UK economy, bring investment to the UK and create opportunities for British people.”

“The prime minister’s interests have been declared in accordance with the normal processes.”

Jonathan Portes, professor of economics and public policy at King’s College London, said:

“Infosys applied for 2,500 visas in 2019 alone, primarily so that it could bring in its staff to work on large outsourced IT contracts in the UK.

“This is quite different from other types of skilled immigration, where a UK-based employer hires someone from abroad to move here to fill a vacancy.

“This is a fundamental part of their business model, and liberalising the visa rules has long been a priority for Infosys and similar companies, who of course have the ear of the Indian government when it comes to trade deals.”

The Indian IT industry needs fast, short-term corporate visas for the skilled professionals it requires to work on projects in the UK, where there is a shortage of qualified workers.

Shivendra Singh, vice president and global trade development head of Nasscom, said:

“New age technology such as generative AI, blockchain and machine learning have widened the demand-supply gap.

“We want to make it easier for IT workers to go to Britain to fill the gap on projects and then come back. They will go and return. This does not affect net migration at all.”

Dhiren is a journalism graduate with a passion for gaming, watching films and sports. He also enjoys cooking from time to time. His motto is to “Live life one day at a time.”

  • What's New



  • Polls

    Which of these are you?

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...
  • Share to...