PM to seek ethics adviser guidance on Home Secretary speed course claims
The Prime Minister will consult with his ethics adviser over claims the Home Secretary asked civil servants to help her avoid incurring points on her licence after being caught speeding.
Rishi Sunak is due back in the UK on Monday following his trip to Japan for the G7 leaders’ meeting.
The Conservative Party leader is expected to speak to Home Secretary Suella Braverman upon his return, along with Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, following reports she requested Home Office officials set up a private speed awareness course for her.
Downing Street confirmed on Sunday that Mr Sunak would also speak with his independent adviser on ministerial interests, Sir Laurie Magnus, about the matter.
No 10 insiders stressed that the Prime Minister would be seeking initial advice from Sir Laurie and that it was not certain that an inquiry into whether the ministerial code had been breached would be ordered.
Sir Laurie cannot launch an investigation without Mr Sunak’s prior approval, but a breach of the code can be a resignation matter.
“The Prime Minister has always followed the proper process in these matters, and will consult the independent adviser upon his return to London,” a No 10 source said.
Facing questions about reports surrounding Mrs Braverman during a press conference in Hiroshima to mark the end of the G7 gathering, Mr Sunak showed his frustration at having to deal with domestic ministerial queries while on the world stage.
“Did you have any questions about the summit?” he asked.
Mr Sunak refused to back Mrs Braverman when asked for his opinion at the press briefing but No 10 later said he retained confidence in her.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats have urged Mr Sunak to order an investigation into the claims.
According to The Sunday Times, Mrs Braverman asked Home Office civil servants to help organise a one-to-one driving awareness course as she was keen to avoid having three points on her licence for a speeding offence.
Officials are said to have refused the request so Mrs Braverman allegedly turned to a political aide to assist her in attempting to arrange an alternative to having to attend a course with other motorists.
A spokesman for the Home Secretary said she regrets speeding and has since accepted the points and paid the fine.
The speeding offence reportedly took place on a road outside London last year when Mrs Braverman was serving as attorney general when Boris Johnson was prime minister.
Her request for support from officials was made while she was home secretary under Liz Truss’ brief premiership, The Sunday Times said.
After being reappointed to the Home Secretary position by Rishi Sunak in October, only six days after she had resigned from the same position for sharing a sensitive document with a Tory backbencher from a personal email without permission, she reportedly dropped the idea of attending a course and opted to accept the points.
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting told the BBC the Prime Minister needed to “put his money where his mouth is” and “have an immediate investigation under the ministerial code”.
His party has highlighted that the ministerial code states that ministers must uphold the political impartiality of the Civil Service and not ask civil servants to act in any way which would conflict with the Civil Service Code.
The code by which civil servants must abide states that public servants must not “misuse” their position to “further private interests or those of others”.
It comes as an expert said Mrs Braverman had done “nothing untoward” in wanting a private course but that she had “shot herself in the foot” by not asking a lawyer to set it up.
Nick Freeman, known as Mr Loophole for winning celebrities’ cases on legal technicalities, told PA news agency: “If she got a lawyer to do it nobody would be any of the wiser, she’d have done the course, the course provider wouldn’t leak her information and the lawyer wouldn’t either.
“She’s the author of her own misfortune.”