The Chancellor bought shares in a food technology company just months before it won a share of £560,000 government contract.
Hammond bought 15% of Cambridgeshire-based company Hydramach in October 2015, but did not declare them in the Register of Members’ Interests until December 2016.
The Daily Telegraph reports today that:
Months later – in April 2016 – Hydramach was one of eight companies which won the grant to develop low fat and low sugar soups, ready meals and sauces from Innovate UK, a tech start up quango run by the Department for Business.
Last night a former standards watchdog said Mr Hammond’s failure to make public his shareholding was “a serious failure” because “there is clearly a potential conflict of interest”.
So why didn’t Hammond declare this earlier?
His staff told the Telegraph that he didn’t declare it in his House of Commons’ register because “it didn’t meet their threshold for declaration”.
But the aide also said:
He declared his shareholding as part of the usual Ministerial interests process – as set out in the Ministerial Code – whilst Foreign Secretary.
But that doesn’t resolve the central issue: should MPs be allowed to buy shares in companies bidding for government contracts?
Hydramach’s director tells the Telegraph the company eventually “withdrew” from the proposed consortium and government contract, and declined to enter into the agreement with Innovate UK.
So neither the company nor Hammond benefited from the contract.
But it still raises troubling questions about whether elected officials should be allowed to buy shares like this.
And then politicians wonder why the people think they’re in it for themselves