Rishi ducks media questions on visit to Treasury's new northern base

Rishi poses for glossy ‘vanity snaps’ on visit to Treasury’s new northern base… but ducks media questions about US green card and wife’s non-dom status – as he faces sleaze probe and Labour demands guarantees about tax arrangements of other ministers

  • Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer puts pressure on the PM over the non-dom row 
  • He says Boris Johnson must confirm no minister has sought to reduce tax bill
  • It follows a huge row over Rishi Sunak’s family finances and his wife’s tax status
  • The Chancellor gets on with the day job with visit to meet staff in Darlington

Rishi Sunak posed for ‘vanity snaps’ on a trip to the Treasury’s new northern base today – but ducked media questions about the row over his family’s tax status.

The Chancellor headed for the campus in Darlington, with his official photographer posting a series of glossy images on the department’s Flickr feed.

But while Mr Sunak took part in a question and answer session with staff, there was no access for journalists wanting to grill him on the furore. Labour said the PR stunt ‘beggars belief’ and showed how out of touch Mr Sunak had become.   

The criticism came as Boris Johnson signed off on his sleaze adviser probing whether Mr Sunak had declared his financial interests properly.

Mr Sunak had asked for the peer – who previously cleared Mr Johnson over ‘Wallpapergate’ – to get involved saying his ‘overriding concern’ is to demonstrate he had behaved correctly.

A Downing Street spokeswoman insisted today that the premier still backs his Chancellor, but dodged giving a timetable for when the probe might be complete. 

Meanwhile, Keir Starmer sought to turn up the heat by demanding assurances that other top members of his government had not been ‘making use of schemes to reduce their own taxation’. 

Rishi Sunak visited Darlington today, where he held a Q&A with staff at the Darlington Economic Campus, in a bid to show that he was getting on with his job Chancellor

Mr Sunak’s official photographer posted a series of glossy images on the Treasury’s Flickr feed

Mr Sunak’s billionaire heiress wife, Akshata Murty, was revealed to have had non-dom status. It meant she legally avoided paying a huge UK tax bill – estimated to be as much as £4.4m last year – by paying £30,000 a year to register as based in India

Tories have warned that Mr Sunak’s ambitions of becoming PM have been ‘scuppered’ by the revelations about his billionaire heiress wife Akshata Murty having non-dom status, and that he held a US green card while running the Treasury. 

There has also been criticism that the Chancellor’s response of launching an aggressive leak inquiry was ‘petulant and naive’. 

No10 has batted away calls for Mr Sunak to publish his tax returns, or for public disclosures about the tax status of other ministers – although they are meant to declare arrangements to senior civil servants.

A Labour source said of the photographs of Mr Sunak in Darlington: ‘It beggars belief that Rishi Sunak is carrying on with his taxpayer-funded vanity photoshoots without a care in the world. For this out of touch Chancellor it’s a case of ‘cost of living crisis? What cost of living crisis?’

Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Mr Sunak’s predecessor as Chancellor, revealed over the weekend that he himself held non-dom status for six years while he was a banker.

He was said to have been entitled to the status because his father was born in Pakistan. 

Mr Javid dramtically quit as Chancellor in February 2020 – to be replaced by Mr Sunak – following a row with Boris Johnson about which aides he could have in the Treasury.

Speaking on a visit to Sunderland today, Sir Keir continued his attack on the PM over the non-dom row and said that ‘to appoint one Chancellor with suspect tax affairs is sloppy, to appoint two is a habit’.

‘While he insists on making working people pay more taxes, the Prime Minister owes it to the public to confirm his Cabinet are not finding ways to pay less,’ he said.

‘The scale of the Chancellor’s hypocrisy is difficult to swallow against the backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis.

‘We now know that the Health Secretary – the former chancellor – also knows his way around a tax-reduction scheme.’

The Labour leader added: ‘Boris Johnson needs to bring this saga to a close and confirm that no other sitting Conservative minister is doing or has done anything to reduce their own personal tax bill, while they preside over the biggest tax hike in 70 years.’

Sir Keir also said that no one would be allowed to serve in government under him if they held non-dom status, as he stressed there were not any non-doms in his shadow cabinet.

‘We would have an absolutely fair system and I would expect all members of my cabinet to pay their full taxes in this country,’ he said.

‘It’s a shame we can’t say the same about the Prime Minister.’

Letft, Rishi Sunak’s letter to the PM. Right, Mr Sunak and Akshata Murthy pictured together at the British Asian Trust at British Museum earlier this year

Boris Johnson has been urged to give an assurance that other top members of his government had not been ‘making use of schemes to reduce their own taxation’

Mr Johnson continued to give his fulsome support to Mr Sunak today, with his deupty spokeswoman stressing that the PM maintained his full confidence in the Chancellor.

She also confirmed Mr Johnson had accepted Mr Sunak’s request for an investigation by Lord Geidt, the Prime Minister’s independent adviser on ministerial interests.

The controversy over Mr Sunak’s family finances deepened further when it emerged both he and his spouse have held US green cards – with the Chancellor still holding his for more than 18 months while in charge of the Treasury.

Mr Sunak gave his green card up in October 2021, shortly before his first official trip as Chancellor to the US.

His team said that all laws and rules were followed and full taxes paid where required while Mr Sunak held the status.

The chancellor himself visited Darlington today, where he held a Q&A with staff at the Darlington Economic Campus, in a bid to show that he was getting on with his job as Treasury boss.

Although Labour have gone on the attack over the non-dom row, Sir Keir’s party are still mired in confusion over whether they would abolish the status.

The party vowed to scrap the centuries-old provision – intended to attract wealthy people to the UK – under Jeremy Corbyn.

But Sir Keir’s shadow ministers have been at odds in recent days over whether the party still believes non-dom status should be scrapped.

The policy is said to be ‘under review’ by shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves. 

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