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Sunak reappoints Rees-Mogg’s ex-business partner a month after sacking him

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been criticised for reappointing a controversial minister a month after sacking him (Jacob King/PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been criticised for reappointing a controversial minister a month after sacking him (Jacob King/PA)

Rishi Sunak has been criticised for reappointing a controversial minister a month after sacking him.

Dominic Johnson, who is Jacob Rees-Mogg’s former business partner and a key Conservative Party donor, has returned as a minister for international trade.

He was first appointed as investment minister by Liz Truss at the beginning of October, and was then handed a life peerage to enable him to carry out the Government role, becoming Lord Johnson of Lainston on October 19.

But when Mr Sunak took over from Ms Truss at No 10, Lord Johnson was dismissed after only 26 days in the post, and a day after making his maiden speech in the House of Lords.

Opposition parties have criticised Lord Johnson’s return to the Department of International Trade after he came under fire for failing to disclose his financial interests.

The Liberal Democrats have demanded that he publish his register of interests – a record of anything which could be seen to influence the actions of MPs or peers – after he did not do so during his first ministerial stint.

Lib Dem frontbencher for international trade Lord Purvis of Tweed said: “Clearly this is a matter of public concern and interest.

“Every minister has a duty to the people of this country to be open, transparent and accountable – Lord Johnson has failed in this regard yet again.

“Trust in politicians is already at an all-time low. Every incoming minister with the new Prime Minister must be clear that they have no conflicts of interest, before they represent the country abroad or in the Houses of Parliament.”

Shadow attorney general and former shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry tweeted: “Surely this isn’t true.

“Dominic Johnson has now been reappointed by Rishi Sunak as a trade minister?

“The same Dominic Johnson who was sacked from the role a month ago, and then told British farmers they should convert their farms into offices? Please tell me this is a joke.”

She was referring to a Politico report which said Lord Johnson had argued that agricultural businesses should be helped to “transition their buildings” into “offices or whatever it is”.

Lord Johnson was criticised for not disclosing his financial interests in India ahead of an official visit to the country, only doing so on the floor of the Lords on October 26, a week after meeting in his ministerial capacity with a tech chief in the country.

While he briefly explained in the chamber that he has “equity in a fund management business that invests in India”, he had not declared his interests in full on the Parliament website.

Holders of public office are expected to declare their interests within a month.

Prior to entering politics, Lord Johnson founded Somerset Capital with Mr Rees-Mogg, the ex-business secretary, in 2007.

Lord Johnson also served as vice-chairman of the Conservative Party between 2016 and 2019, and has donated more than £250,000 to the Tories since 2014.

Labour said when Ms Truss originally appointed him that it “beggars belief”, describing him as an “unelected asset fund manager” and “crony party donor”.