Ministers award £300,000 takeover intelligence contract to firm part-owned by Tory MP

A data intelligence firm partly owned by an influential Tory backbencher has won a government contract to monitor foreign takeovers of British companies, under new laws to curb Chinese and Russian influence.

Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, is a shareholder in Business Funding Research Ltd, which trades as Beauhurst.

The Telegraph can reveal that the company has been awarded a £308,000 contract for corporate screening services by the Investment Security Unit (ISU), a new organisation within the Department for Business.

The ISU is the spearhead of the National Security and Investment Act, which came into force this month. 

It aims to investigate foreign investment and predatory takeovers in the UK from hostile powers, notably China and Russia, amid rising official concern that cutting-edge technology and economic influence are being lost.

Mr Tugendhat’s shareholding in Beauhurst is likely to raise questions over potential conflicts between his commercial interests and work as an MP on behalf of constituents. 

In his role as chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, he was a leading voice calling for more scrutiny of foreign investment in debates that led to the establishment of the ISU.

Publishing a report by the foreign affairs select committee last year on the planned legislation Mr Tugendhat warned there was a “risk of the reporting system being overwhelmed”.

He has also intervened in takeovers raising national security concerns. Before Christmas Mr Tugendhat wrote to the Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, calling for him to scrutini the £5.4bn takeover of the satellite operator Inmarsat by an American rival. Last year he also criticised the Chinese bid for a Welsh semiconductor manufacturer, Nexperia.

Mr Tugendhat, who has been chairman of the foreign affairs committee since 2017 and declares his shareholding in Beauhurst in the Commons Register of Financial Interests, did not respond to requests for comment.

The Conservative MP for Tonbridge and Malling is the most prominent investor in  Beauhurst and has held shares since before he became an MP in 2015, according to his declaration in the Commons Register of Financial Interests. 

Other investors include Charlie Songhurst, former strategy officer of Microsoft, the tech entrepreneur Toby Austin, the lawyer Stephen Bence and the divorce solicitor Ayesha Vardag.
Mr Tungendhat and Business Funding Research Ltd did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The ISU was launched two weeks ago and has new powers to investigate and intervene in investments, mergers and acquisition of assets in, or linked to, the UK that could harm national security.
The business minister, Lord Callinan, said last month: “It is an unavoidable truth that a handful of investors want to do us harm. In the UK we see ever more ingenious threats to our national security.”

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