Jeremy Hunt makes humiliating apology after breaking Tory government’s own rules over his property firm

Jeremy Hunt is referred to the standards commissioner and accused of ‘illegal activity’ by Labour after delays in declaring his property firm

-The Health Secretary failed to declare the business to Companies House

-Firm was used to purchase seven luxury flats in Ocean Village, Southampton

-Mr Hunt’s oversight is a criminal offence punishable by fine or prison sentence

-Labour has referred Mr Hunt to the standards commissioner to investigate

Jeremy Hunt is facing a formal investigation by the parliamentary standards commissioner after failing to declare his luxury property development company.

The Health Secretary was accused of ‘illegal activity’ by Labour for failing to disclose his stake in the firm to the authorities.

The millionaire Cabinet minister jointly set up Mare Pond Properties in September to run seven flats in Southamption.

Yet the Health Secretary failed to declare he was a “person with significant control” to Companies House until March 29 – more than six months later.

Since 2016 anti-money-laundering rules have said failing to declare a “person with significant control” within 14 days can lead to a fine or two years’ jail.

Mr Hunt also took until March 7 to declare his stake in the firm to Parliament – breaching a 28-day limit under the MPs’ Code of Conduct.

Mr Hunt’s spokeswoman tonight admitted Mr Hunt had apologised to the Parliamentary authorities after making “honest administrative mistakes”.

He was also backed by Theresa May after the Cabinet Office said he had not breached the Ministerial Code.

But Sir Alistair Graham, the former chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, warned letting Mr Hunt off the hook could show “one rule for the political elite and another rule for the rest of the population.”

Sir Alistair told the Daily Telegraph: “It is a very poor show when ministers, who you expect to take leadership in standards and public life, do not meet the rules they are required to meet.

“If there has been a failure of leadership, there should be a political price for it. Either in terms of the damage to your reputation or to action by the Prime Minister in the case of the ministerial code, or by the Committee on Standards, which reports to the full House of Commons.”

The oversight was uncovered by campaigner Dr Alex May, who said Companies House records were corrected the day after he wrote to Mr Hunt’s office.

Dr May said Mr Hunt’s behaviour was “disappointing”, adding: “The Health Secretary continually bangs on about how NHS staff and organisations must be open, transparent and accountable – particularly when things go wrong during patient care.

“He’s right, of course. What a pity, then, Mr Hunt fails to practise what he preaches.”

A spokeswoman for Jeremy Hunt said tonight: “These were honest administrative mistakes which have already been rectified.

“Jeremy’s accountant made an error in the Companies House filing which was a genuine oversight.

“With respect to ministerial and parliamentary declarations, the Cabinet Office are clear that there has been no breach of the ministerial code.

“Jeremy declared the interest to them after the company was set up.

“They advised that as it was a shell company with no assets or value, it should only be registered when it became operational.

“As such, Jeremy presumed the same rules applied to Parliamentary declarations.

“Although there was no personal gain involved, Jeremy accepts these mistakes are his responsibility and has apologised to the parliamentary authorities.”

A Downing Street spokesman 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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