“Jeremy Hunt received a “bulk discount” on seven flats bought from a Conservative donor, the Guardian can disclose, as parliament’s watchdog opened an investigation into the health secretary’s admission that he breached money laundering rules.
The health secretary was forced to apologise for failing to declare his part-ownership of a company, which bought the luxury seaside flats in Southampton.
Kathryn Stone, parliament’s commissioner for standards, received a complaint about Hunt on Friday. The commissioner’s website confirms that Hunt is now under investigation.
Guardian inquiries established that the 82-flat block, called Alexandra Wharf, was developed by Nicolas James Group, a south coast property firm owned and chaired by businessman and Conservative donor Nicolas James Roach.
Neither Hunt nor Roach agreed to disclose the value of the deal but a source close to the health secretary said he had received a “bulk discount” for buying multiple apartments.
A spokesperson for Roach said that all sales at Alexandra Wharf were at “open market value”, adding that the businessman’s political donations had been properly declared on the Electoral Commission website.
They added that the pair had known each other for “several years” but had no business relationship beyond the purchase of the flats.
A spokesperson for Hunt said: “The owner of the development is a long-standing acquaintance.
“Jeremy paid standard market rates which would have been available to anyone else making an equivalent purchase.
“As Jeremy has been clear from the outset, the rental income from these properties will be donated to charity.”
Roach has made more than £50,000 in donations to Hunt’s South West Surrey constituency office since 2011, mostly in the form of complimentary venue hire.
The pair were pictured together in 2011 at a party to launch a £60m hotel in Guildford, Surrey, that was developed by Nicolas James Group.
Sir Alistair Graham, the former chairman for the committee on standards in public life said: “In terms of public perception of ministerial priorities, Hunt seems more concerned with maximising his personal interests rather than ensuring that there are good public services.
“On a local level, there does seem to be an incestuous relationship between a local donor and a local politician in a way which will make the public uneasy.” …”