Hacker House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:17 pm on 25th September 2019.

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Photo of Layla Moran Layla Moran Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Education), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 1:17 pm, 25th September 2019

I thank the Minister for his reply. I should make it clear that I care very little about the personal life of the Prime Minister, but I care a lot about how this Government manage conflicts of interest and how they spend taxpayers’ money. On that basis, I am concerned that the Department appears to have given Hacker House a £100,000 grant in January 2019 as part of the cyber skills immediate impact fund, a grant that was open to initiatives based in and that operate from Britain. Furthermore, these grants should not exceed 50% of the company’s revenue.

We now know that Hacker House is not based in the UK. The Sunday Times reports that its owner, Jennifer Arcuri, moved back to the USA in June 2018. The grants were not open for application until November. The registered address of the company is in fact a house in Cheshire that she used to rent, and the current occupant apparently sends any post addressed to Ms Arcuri back to the sender.

Where is the due diligence? What steps did the Department take to ensure that Hacker House was indeed based in and operating in the UK? Why did officials waive the rule that the grants could not exceed 50% of the company’s collective income? How many of the other companies that we now find have had these grants have had this kind of preferential treatment? Did the Prime Minister, then a Back Bencher, make any representations, official or otherwise, to the Department recommending Hacker House for the funding? The Department says that it will investigate the award of the grant, but will the Minister tell us when will that review conclude and will it be made fully public?

The misuse of public funds and conflicts of interest in relation to Ms Arcuri run deeper than just this matter. I appreciate that the Minister will not be able to speak for the actions of the Prime Minister when he was the Mayor of London, but would he, on behalf of the Government and the Prime Minister, ensure that all Departments fully co-operate with the investigation being launched by the London Assembly’s oversight committee into how the Mayor’s office handled conflicts of interest?

We are back in the Commons today because the Prime Minister has been shown to ride roughshod over the laws of this land. It would indeed be disappointing if we were to find that the Prime Minister has form in bending the rules for personal or political gain.