- Michael Gove has received £120,000 in donations from property developers this year.
- He was on Wednesday put in charge of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
- Campaigners called the donations a “very obvious conflict of interest.”
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Michael Gove – the UK’s new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities, and Local Government – accepted £120,000 ($US165,207 ($AU225,047)) from property developers this year, Insider can reveal.
The contributions came from two wealthy developers, both of whom have interests in the UK.
Campaigners say the sums represent a conflict of interest for Gove, who was put in charge of housing policy by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a reshuffle of his cabinet on Wednesday.
The first was £20,000 ($US27,564 ($AU37,548)) on May 24 from Alan Massie, a Scottish businessman who owns the development company Carlton Rock.
The second was were £100,000 ($US137,820 ($AU187,740)) from Zachariasz Gertler, paid in two installments of £50,000 on August 5 and August 6.
Gertler is the managing director of Gertler Estates, a property development company founded by his father.
He lives in Israel, where he has closed ties to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose 70th birthday party he hosted at his home, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The Gertler Estates website describes extensive developments around Frankfurt, but makes no mention of buildings in the UK.
According to The Sunday Times, the company built offices in London in the 1990s. News articles from 2004 mention two large office buildings near King’s Cross in London, which Gertler sold for £90 million.
Its annual Rich List estimated his family’s net worth at £150 million in 2009, but has not featured him since.
Massie’s Carlton Rock has property interests in Aberdeenshire, where Gove grew up. Local press reports mention projects including an as-yet unbuilt hotel and a warehouse on the industrial outskirts of Aberdeen.
Massie and Gertler’s contributions make up 87% of Gove’s donations for the year.
Both were listed under Gove’s name in Parliament’s register of MPs’ financial interests. Gove also received smaller donations from Massie, Gertler, and other property developers before 2021.
They include an earlier £10,000 each from Gertler and Massie in June 2019, when Gove was running for leadership of the Conservative Party, a contest he lost to Johnson.
Campaigners and opposition parties were quick to criticize Gove’s appointment in light of the donations.
Susan Hawley, Executive Director at Spotlight on Corruption, told Insider: “This very obvious conflict of interest will need to be handled extremely carefully by Gove’s new department and he will need to recuse and insulate him from all decisions that could benefit any of these donors.”
“The public have a right to know that campaign contributions of this sort play no role in influencing government policy, and the onus is on the department to show through high levels of transparency, that these donors are not given any form of privileged access to Gove and that his decisions are not influenced by these donations.”
Steve Reed MP, Labour’s Shadow Communities Secretary, told Insider that Gove has “serious questions to answer” about the donations.
He called on Gove to drop planned legislation which critics say favors developers over local communities.
“If the Secretary of State wants to prove that his party is not in the pockets of the development industry, he should confirm that the Government’s planning reforms are dead and buried,” Reed said.
The Ministerial Code – rules governing how ministers behave – instructs ministers to “scrupulously avoid any danger of an actual or perceived conflict of interest between their Ministerial position and their private financial interests”.
An MHCLG spokesperson told Insider: “All donations made to the Secretary of State have been declared publicly and the proper process followed. The Department has robust processes in place to ensure any potential conflicts of interest are managed appropriately. Ministers continue to be bound at all times by their obligations under the Ministerial Code.”