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EXCL Jeremy Hunt in fresh apology to MP watchdogs after second blunder over luxury flats

Emilio Casalicchio

3 min read

Jeremy Hunt has been forced to apologise again to MP watchdogs after it emerged he told them he bought seven luxury flats in Southampton a day late.

The Health Secretary had already apologised for failing to declare his interests in Mare Pond Properties Limited, which was set up to buy the flats, and admitted to an “honest administrative mistake”.

But in the course of a probe into the affair, the Commissioner for Standards found he also botched letting them know the flats at the desirable Ocean Village development had been purchased.

The watchdog will update the register of interests to reflect the delays but no further action will be taken.

In a letter to Mr Hunt, the commissioner Kathryn Stone notes she told him in a face-to-face meeting that he had broken the rules a second time when he registered the flats after the 28-day deadline.

“I noted that you had registered this interest late - by just one day - which you accepted and, for which you immediately apologised,” she said.

Mr Hunt replied: “In that meeting you drew my attention to the fact that I registered the interest in seven apartments in Southampton late by one day for which I repeat my apology.”

The case was launched after Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jon Trickett complained that Mr Hunt had failed to list his 50% interest in the firm for six months after he set it up with his wife in October last year.

Mr Hunt argued that he only had to register the company in his separate list of ministerial interests when it became “operational” - and had assumed the rules would be the same for the parliamentary register.

He said: “I believed the existence of a shell company on paper - with no assets or value - did not represent any potential conflict, which led me to misinterpret the rules. I take full responsibility for this.”

In her letter to Mr Trickett setting out her conclusions in the case, Ms Stone said she was “satisfied that his [Mr Hunt’s] breach of the rules was at the less serious end of the spectrum”.

Mr Hunt had also failed to register the firm with Companies House within six months of its being set up - a potential breach of anti-money laundering rules.

Mr Trickett said at the time the oversight was revealed that it appeared the Health Secretary had “taken party in illegal activity”.

But a Downing Street spokesperson had said: "Jeremy has rightly apologised for an administrative oversight, and as the Cabinet Office have made clear there has been no breach of the ministerial code.

"We consider the matter closed."

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