The MP for Croydon South who has lobbied against building blocks of flats in his own constituency has a significant holding in a company which has invested £19.3m in a block of flats near East Croydon Station.
By STEVEN DOWNES
More than seven years after Inside Croydon first raised warning flags over the massive potential for multi-million-pound conflicts of interest over the Conservative MP for Croydon South’s businesses, and mainstream media has woken up to the inherent risks of placing property development investor Chris Philp into the key job as No2 at the Treasury.
Philp was elevated to the role of Chief Secretary to the Treasury in new Prime Minister Liz Truss’s government reshuffle.
Philp was the founder of Pluto Finance. In 2015, when elected as Croydon South MP, he stepped back from day-to-day involvement, but he has maintained a significant stake in the business ever since.
Pluto Finance offers multi-million-pound loans to property developers.
For example, in April this year, Pluto provided a £19.3million “debt facility” to Pocket Homes for their recently completed development of 153 flats in a tower block at Addiscombe Grove, close to East Croydon Station.
Pluto’s enthusiasm for building tall towers of flats might seem in marked contrast to Philp’s own public position as MP for Croydon South, when he has repeatedly opposed housing developments in his constituency, including some offering “affordable” housing.
In his new Treasury job, Philp will have responsibility for spending policy in relation to, among other things, housing and planning.
A spokesperson at HM Treasury was at pains this week to distance his new boss from any suggestion of impropriety. “The Chief Secretary to the Treasury is not a director of Pluto companies,” they told Inside Croydon, answering a question that had never been asked.
Philp’s resignation as a director is a matter of public record at Companies House. As is his continued status as a partner of a nexus of opaque businesses, all registered as LLPs, at least in part to avoid such troublesome things such as Corporation Tax.
Philp has never published his own tax returns (“Where will it end?” he once said when asked why he would not), despite the examples set for him by senior Tory Party colleagues such as David Cameron, George Osborne, Boris Johnson and even Jacob Rees-Mogg.
In 2016, when Inside Croydon carried out a poll of our readers asking whether Philp publishing his tax returns was an important matter of public trust, 83per cent said “Yes”. And that was when Philp was merely a brown-nosing member of the Treasury Select Committee.
Philp, who once told Croydon voters “It’s none of your business” when he was asked how many homes he owns, has done nothing to distance himself from his business interests since his promotion to First Secretary, and all indications suggest that he does not intend to do anything about it, either.
In his new role, Philp is effectively the Chancellor’s deputy. The position comes with membership of the Privy Council and a seat at (though not in) Truss’s Cabinet.
The Grauniad reported this week that Pluto “has provided loans for developments including… luxury blocks in the City of London whose developers earlier this year applied for an exemption to avoid having to offer affordable housing”. Which is nice.
According to his register of members’ interests, Philp has a shareholding of more than 15per cent 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.
Philp is also a director of an investment, consultancy and advisory company, Millgap Ltd. Philp says that Millgap is not actively trading, although it is still registered as active at Companies House and is not recorded as dormant on the MPs’ register of interests or the list of ministerial interests from May this year.
As the Grauniad put it: “The practice of allowing ministers to retain substantial business interests appears to have increased under Boris Johnson’s government. Previously, ministers would have expected to sell substantial stakes in companies and give up directorships, or put them immediately in blind trusts.”
A Treasury spokesperson told Inside Croydon: “The Ministerial Code sets out the process by which Ministers, following their appointment 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 line with the Ministerial Code, following his appointment just last week.”
The Treasury is currently without a Permanent Secretary, after Tom Scholar was sacked by the Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng.
This week, Philp told Inside Croydon, “On personal tax, I’m UK resident and domiciled for UK tax purposes and always have been. I have no assets in any trusts. Everything I own is ultimately held in my personal name as a regular UK citizen and so receipts I receive are subject to full UK income tax, capital gains tax etc.
“I am currently going through the regular Treasury process to declare and manage interests and ensure no conflict, but I can confirm I am not involved in the day-to-day running of Pluto.”
Which again, is not anything anyone has actually suggested and which, again, does not address the scale of Philp’s stake in the business, his influence as founder and a partner, nor the continuing potential for conflicts of interest while he holds one of the most important jobs in setting the nation’s taxation policy.
Listen again to our 2019 Under The Flyover interview with Chris Philp:
Read more: A good week and a bad week for Croydon’s Tory MP Philp
Read more: After a 38-hour pause for thought, Philp quits government
Read more: Croydon South’s Tory MP called a ‘liar’ 16 times on national TV
Read more: MP Philp’s latest business venture folds due to lack of funds
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