Treasury Department’s new chief secretary faces questions about financial interests

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Chris Philp, the Treasury Department’s new chief secretary, is facing questions about his financial interests after it was revealed he still holds a sizeable stake in a real estate finance group and is a director of an investment company.

Philp, who is Deputy Chancellor and sits in Cabinet, is a member of a partnership owned by Pluto Finance, which offers multimillion-pound loans to property developers.

It has provided loans for developments including over £260,000 in ‘pocket’ apartments in Croydon and luxury blocks in the City of London, whose developers applied for an exemption earlier this year to avoid having to offer affordable housing.

In his Government role, Philp is responsible for the Treasury Department’s spending policies related to housing and planning.

The Treasury declined to say whether Philp would need to sell his holdings, place them in a blind trust or be barred from housing policy discussions.

When asked how Philp would manage his financial interests, a Government spokesman said: “The Code of Ministers sets out the process by which Ministers, once appointed to a new role, should declare and manage their interests, working with their Permanent Secretary. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury is now going through this process in accordance with the Ministerial Code, having been appointed just last week.”

The Treasury is currently without a permanent secretary after Tom Scholar was removed from his post by Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng last week. The role is now shared between two acting directors, Beth Russell and Cat Little.

According to the shareholders’ register of shareholders, Philp holds more than 15% interest and is a partner in Pluto Partners LLP, Pluto Silverstone Co Invest LLP, Pluto Monza Co Invest LLP, Pluto Development Partners LLP and Pluto Capital Management LLP.

Pluto Partners is the ultimate owner of Pluto Finance (UK) LLP, a firm that arranges loans for property developers.

It is also partially owned by the Universities Superannuation Scheme as well as other members of the partnership.

Philp is also a director of an investment, advisory and advisory firm of which he wholly owns, Millgap Ltd. Philp is understood to assume it is not actively trading, although it is still registered as active with Companies House and is not registered as dormant on the MPs’ register of interests or the Ministers’ interests list as of May this year.

His promotion to Chief Secretary of the Treasury comes at a time when Liz Truss and Kwarteng are prioritizing growth over all other concerns.

Truss also appointed another businessman, Andrew Griffith, a former Sky executive, as Treasury Secretary, but he has given up his interests in the deal since moving into Parliament.

However, Philp is not the only minister in Cabinet who has retained significant business interests. Jacob Rees-Mogg, the business secretary, still has an interest in Somerset Capital Management, an investment firm he co-founded.

The practice of allowing ministers to retain essential business interests appears to have increased under Boris Johnson’s government. Previously, ministers would have expected to sell substantial stakes in companies and relinquish directorships, or place them immediately in blind trusts.

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The Ministerial Code states that it is the personal responsibility of each minister to decide whether and what action is necessary to avoid a conflict or the perception of a conflict, taking into account the official advice of the Secretary of State and the Counselor on Ministerial Interests. However, Truss has hinted that she may not appoint a new adviser on ministerial interests following Sir Christopher Geidt’s resignation.

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