Criticism of Rishi Sunak’s family’s tax affairs has focused the spotlight on the immense personal wealth of some MPs. There are also questions about whether people with huge fortunes can fully understand the impact their decisions have on people living on the breadline.
With people facing huge pressures from the rising cost of heating their homes and feeding the families, the spectacle of a Chancellor with enormous family wealth giving the poorest families the least help in his budget has raised concerns. With universal credit rising by just 3% while inflation is at 8%, the least well-off families will face huge pressures in the coming year. This has been compounded as details of Sunak’s family’s wealth emerged along with the revelation this his wife avoided paying UK tax as a ‘non dom’.
Though there is nothing inherently wrong with wealthy people occupying public offices of state, but some would argue that if a decision maker is exceptionally wealthy, it is hard for them to put themselves in the shoes of the people who will be directly affected by their policy choices.
WalesOnline has gone through an listed the wealthiest members of the cabinet.
Read more: Is Rishi Sunak right that 1m fewer people are in poverty now than 10 years ago?
Rishi Sunak – Chancellor
Rishi Sunak is one of the wealthiest MPs in the House of Commons. Privately educated at the boarding school Winchester College he was, according to The Times, a “multimillionaire in his mid-twenties”.
In the early noughties, he spent four years working as an analyst for Goldman Sachs investment bank and was later a partner in two hedge funds. He became an MP in 2015 and since he became Chancellor, his salary is £151,649.
His family are believed to open four properties including a grade II-listed manor house in the village of Kirby Sigston, near Northallerton, in his Richmond constituency, which was bought for £1.5m in 2015 and a five-bedroom townhouse in South Kensington, London, which records show was last sold for £4.5m in 2010. He is also believed to own a flat in South Kensington in addition to a penthouse apartment with views of the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, California.
However the overwhelming majority of the Sunak family wealth comes from his wife Akshata Murty who he married in 2009. She is the daughter of one of India’s most successful entrepreneurs. Her father is the co-founder of Indian tech giant Infosys and her shares in the company are believed to be worth around £430 million. This would make her richer than Queen. The i reported that her family also has a £900 million joint venture with Amazon in India while Ms Murty herself owns a UK-based venture capital company called Catamaran Ventures UK Ltd, and she uses it to store her private wealth, and is a director or direct shareholder at five other UK companies. Rishi Sunak owned shares in the company which he transferred over to his wife before he entered the House of Commons.
Jacob Rees-Mogg – Brexit opportunities secretary
Mr Rees-Mogg is considered one of wealthiest MPs in Parliament. He founded and remains a major shareholder in Somerset Capital, an asset management firm he co-founded in 2007. In 2020, he received a dividend payment of around £800,000 after the firm reported profits for distribution of £14.9 million. There has been criticism that his new role as Brexit opportunities secretary could be exploited to increase his personal wealth. Steve Goodrich, head of research and investigations at Transparency International, told LeftFootForward : “It’s risky business when ministers hold briefs relating to their personal financial affairs, and even more so when there’s a lot of money at stake. In theory, there are rules in place to stop them blurring the lines between their public roles and private interests, yet in practice these have proven to be no more than just words on paper.”
Mr Rees-Mogg lives with his wife a six children in West Harptree, at their 17th-century Grade II-listed Gournay Court manor house with other property including a £5.625 million property behind Westminster Abbey and the £4m freehold of a building in Pall Mall plus the £1.5m leasehold of a flat inside it. He is also the owner of a 1968 T-Series Bentley, a 1936 3.5 Litre Bentley, as well as a Lexus.
Nadhim Zahawi – Education secretary
Nadhim Zahawi, his wife and their companies have built a £100million property portfolio with more than half of it bought while Mr Zahawi has served as a government minister, a Mirror investigation found.
The portfolio includes a country mansion with stables, a £20m London townhouse, a string of high street properties and an industrial estate. The Zahawis personally own five residential properties worth at least £17m – three in London, one in Warwickshire and one in Dubai.
According to The Mirror documents show their constituency home near Warwick, a country house and stable block bought for £875,000 in 2011, was purchased with a loan from offshore company Berkford Investments. It is not known who owns Berkford but it is based in the same office as another firm controlled by Mr Zahawi’s dad. Mr Zahawi has said: “I have no involvement with any decision-making process by Berkford Investments.” In the past six years, companies set up by the Zahawis have spent more than £80m on commercial properties.
Alister Jack – Scotland secretary
Mr Jack is a businessman who made big money founding tent-hire and self-storage companies. The self storage businesses have previously been reported to have helped build a fortune of £20 million. He currently owns a farm of 1,200 acres in Courance, near Lockerbie.
Farmer Jack has declared shares in 16 companies, in 10 of which his personal holding is worth at least £70,000. The Herald reported that one of the entities is “industrial conglomerate” JMH, which is an Asian-based business group. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and provides management services to companies in the wider group. However, JMH was incorporated in 1984 in Bermuda, a British Overseas Territory which in 2016 Oxfam named as the worst of 15 corporate tax havens.
Sajid Javid – Health secretary
Estimates put Sajid Javid’s wealth at around £8m. Much of this was accrued during his banking career before he became an MP.
During 18 years working in finance, he started to work at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City and during that period he rose to become the bank’s youngest vice-president. In 1997, Sajid Javid relocated to Chase’s London office before he was headhunted by Deutsche Bank. When he left this role his annual salary was about £3 million. Javid applied for and held non-domicile status for 6 years during this banking career which allowed him to avoid paying tax in the UK on overseas earnings.
Boris Johnson – Prime Minister
As PM Mr Johnson receives just over £160,000 a year as a salary. Along with his wife Carrie Johnson he own a £1.2m London residence as well as a 20% stake in his family’s Exmoor estate.
He has also made serious cash speaking engagements with his register of interests showing he was paid £407,895 for just eight speaking engagements – a rate of £20,000 an hour. A speech about Brexit for India Today at the five-star Taj Palace hotel in New Delhi, India bagged him £122,899.74 He also was paid £275,000 by the Telegraph for a weekly column.