19 November 2021

Sajid Javid facing questions over share options in health tech firm

19 November 2021

Health Secretary Sajid Javid is facing scrutiny for holding share options in a tech firm that provides artificial intelligence software to the health sector.

Mr Javid was also paid the equivalent of more than £150,000 a year by Californian firm C3.ai from October last year until June when he rejoined the Cabinet.

Labour questioned whether he has broken the ministerial code because he continues to have an “option for 666.7 common shares per month”, according to the MPs’ register of interests.

Mr Javid reports these options to be worth around £45,000 but is said to have begun the process of divesting after taking the job of Health Secretary.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner alleged it is a “clear conflict of interest and breach of the ministerial code” and wrote a letter to Boris Johnson’s adviser on ministers’ interests, Lord Geidt, to raise her concerns.

“In September, the Secretary of State’s department announced that the use of ‘artificial intelligence’ would shorten waiting lists in our NHS,” she said.

“The Department of Health and Social Care announcing that it is going to spend taxpayers’ money on artificial intelligence could clearly be perceived as beneficial to an artificial intelligence company, and to the value of shares in an artificial intelligence company such as C3.ai.”

The Secretary of State has acted in line with the ministerial code and has properly declared these share options in the usual way

She pointed to the section of the ministerial code that states ministers “must scrupulously avoid any danger of an actual or perceived conflict of interest” between their role and their private financial interest.

The questions came as MPs face intensified scrutiny over their roles outside Parliament following a sleaze row prompted by the Government’s botched attempt to protect senior Tory Owen Paterson from suspension over his breach of lobbying rules.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “The Secretary of State has acted in line with the ministerial code and has properly declared these share options in the usual way.”

A source close to Mr Javid added that the Health Secretary started the process of divesting the shares when he re-entered the Cabinet but could not say when the process would be complete.

Mr Javid’s appointment to the role was unexpected, coming after Matt Hancock resigned after footage emerged of him kissing an aide in his departmental office, in breach of coronavirus rules.

Meanwhile, Downing Street said that Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone has agreed that the Prime Minister does not have to declare in the MPs’ register of interests the details of his free stay in a Spanish villa courtesy of the Goldsmith family.

Citing a “longstanding personal friendship” with the family, Mr Johnson declared the trip to Marbella in the register of ministers’ interests.

But the value of the holiday was not disclosed and Labour questioned whether he should also publish the details on the register of interests for MPs as well, noting the stay came after Mr Johnson gave Zac Goldsmith a life peerage and a ministerial job in the wake of voters dumping him as the MP for Richmond Park in 2019.

On Friday, a No 10 spokesman said: “The parliamentary standards commissioner has agreed with the approach taken by the Prime Minister that the substantive family holiday in Spain does not require a separate Commons registration.”

It was understood that Ms Stone has written to the deputy Labour leader, who called for the investigation, to say Mr Johnson had entered the holiday in the correct register.

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