UK PM Sunak breached parliament's code of conduct inadvertently - watchdog

British PM Sunak visits a housing development in London

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak did not properly declare his wife's shareholding in a childcare company which stood to benefit from new government policy but the failure was inadvertent, parliament's standards watchdog said on Wednesday.

Parliament's Commissioner for Standards began investigating Sunak in April, after opposition parties raised questions over media reports Sunak's wife Akshata Murthy was a shareholder in a company set to benefit from support for the childcare sector.

The commissioner, Daniel Greenberg, is responsible for the House of Commons code of conduct and investigates any alleged breaches.

Publishing the conclusions of his investigation, Greenberg said Sunak should have declared the shareholding when being questioned on the policy by a committee of senior lawmakers but that he was satisfied the British leader had confused the rules on registering and declaring interests.

"Having considered the information available to me, I have decided that the breach of the code appears to have been inadvertent," Greenberg said. "I confirm that the matter is now closed."

Greenberg, who can refer lawmakers who breach the rules to a committee which has the power to suspend or expel them from parliament, said he had instead decided to conclude the inquiry via a rectification procedure.

Rectification procedures can include offering advice to the lawmaker, requiring them to apologise or to correct the register of members' financial interests.

In a letter to Greenberg, published by the commissioner's office, Sunak apologised for confusing the language of registration and declaration.

"I am pleased that this matter will now be concluded by way of rectification," Sunak added.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by Jonathan Oatis)