Rishi Sunak to consult independent ethics advisor over Braverman
Rishi Sunak will meet independent ethics advisor over Suella Braverman’s bid to get civil servants to help her avoid speeding fine as senior Tory says Home Secretary has ‘questions to answer’
- Rishi Sunak will consult independent ethics advisor over Braverman’s behaviour
- Read more: Suella Braverman warned by Tory she has ‘questions to answer’
The Prime Minister will consult his independent ethics adviser over the revelation that the Home Secretary asked civil servants to help her with a speeding fine.
Rishi Sunak will consult his adviser, Sir Laurie Magnus, on Monday after he returns from the G7 summit in Japan, Downing Street has confirmed.
On Sunday, the Prime Minister declined to say whether he would be ordering an inquiry when questioned at the Japanese summit or confirm that he backed the Home Secretary, although a Downing Street spokeswoman said later that ‘of course’ he did.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman, 43, was caught speeding last summer and is said to have asked civil servants to help her arrange a one-on-one driving awareness course.
The one-to-one session would have allowed her to avoid the three penalty points on her license and avoid being spotted by other motorists on a group course after breaching the limit in a 50mph zone last summer.
Opposition parties have demanded an immediate inquiry and Ms Braverman also faced warnings from Conservative colleagues on Sunday that she had a ‘case to answer’.
Suella Braverman , 43, was caught speeding last summer and is said to have asked civil servants to help her arrange a one-on-one driving awareness course
Rishi Sunak will consult his adviser after he returns from the G7 summit in Japan (pictured on May 21)
It is understood that after the officials refused to co-operate – on the grounds that Civil Service rules prevented them from dealing with personal matters – a political aide then contacted the course provider instead, but was unsuccessful in arranging a course.
The Home Secretary later accepted the points and a fine. Sources said she had been concerned about her insurance premiums and favoured doing a speed awareness course for that reason.
Sir Jake Berry, a former minister, highlighted the fact that several high-profile public figures had recently accepted points and fines for speeding, including The Archbishop of Canterbury, Manchester City Region mayor Andy Burnham, and ministers Robert Jenrick and Tom Tugendhat.
He told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: ‘You shouldn’t do it in the first place but if you do get caught, you just take the medicine.’
Sir Jake said he did not know whether Mrs Braverman had breached the ministerial code as he did not have enough information on the case.
Read more: ‘If you get caught, take the medicine’: Suella Braverman warned by senior Tory she has ‘questions to answer’ over bid to get civil servants to help her avoid speeding points amid increasing demands for an inquiry
Therese Coffey, the Environment Sectary, told the Sky News Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme that: ‘I’m not in the business of phoning people at 7.20 in the morning to try and get chapter and verse from a colleague.
‘What is clear is that Suella now has those three points on her licence and she’s getting on with the job of tackling illegal migration.’
Road traffic lawyer Nick Freeman, known as Mr Loophole for winning cases for celebrities on legal technicalities, said on Sunday evening: ‘My own view is that if you commit an offence of speeding or any offence, it’s a private matter and you should deal with it on a private basis and you shouldn’t be using tax-funded employees to help you out with that private problem.
‘So that’s the potential for political fallout for her, but not in asking or requesting a course on a one-to-one basis – there’s nothing improper about that at all.
‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get.’
The lawyer told Sky News that she was eligible for a one-to-one, so that she was not a distraction for other attendees.
Mr Freeman said she had ‘shot herself in the foot’ by not coming clean about the speeding immediately.
‘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; one for speeding, two for speaking to civil servants about arranging the course, three for not getting a lawyer to deal with it for her and four for not coming out straight away and holding her hands up.’
At a press conference on Sunday, Rishi Sunak had refused to back the Home Secretary amid calls from opposition parties for an official inquiry. Ms Braverman is set to face questions in the Commons on Monday.
It is understood that the Prime Minister was not aware of the fine or that the Home Secretary had asked for the help of civil servants until the story was broken in The Sunday Times.
Mr Sunak declined to answer multiple questions about Ms Braverman, who was caught exceeding the limit last summer when she was Attorney General, at a G7 press conference in Japan.
Suella Braverman received a speeding fine and then asked civil servants to help arrange a private driving awareness course to avoid points on her licence
Asked whether he had full confidence in Ms Braverman at a press conference at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Mr Sunak said he did not know the ‘full details’ and has not spoken to her yet.
Sir Jake, a former minister, highlighted the fact that several high-profile public figures had recently accepted points and fines for speeding
He expressed his frustration at being asked whether he would ask his ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus to investigate the claims.
‘Did you have any questions about the summit?’ he asked, before being further quizzed on Ms Braverman at a press conference in Hiroshima.
Sir Laurie can only begin an investigation into potential breaches of the ministerial code if requested to do so by the Prime Minister.
Asked whether he had full confidence in Ms Braverman, Mr Sunak said he did not know the ‘full details’ and had not spoken to her yet.
But he noted she had ‘expressed regret’ for speeding. A No10 spokeswoman later insisted that he did have full confidence in her.
One option being pursued by Ms Braverman was for her to join a virtual group, but with her camera turned off – against the usual rules which require attendees to be in view for the full duration of the session.
After the request was refused, Ms Braverman opted to take the points and pay the fine for going just over the limit in a 50mph zone.
The Mirror reported that a senior aide to Ms Braverman had repeatedly denied that she had been done for speeding.
The aide said: ‘There’s nothing like that,’ when asked on April 4 whether the Home Secretary had been fined over the driving offence.
Colleagues accused her of trying to avoid the negative publicity that the case would have attracted.
A source said: ‘It looks like her first instinct was an attempt to cover up the fact that she had a speeding fine.’
Other sources said Ms Braverman opted to take the points because she was ‘too busy’ to do the course in her new role. They said that she was also concerned about her insurance premium going up as a result of taking the points.
A source close to the Home Secretary said: ‘Ms Braverman accepted three points for a speeding offence which took place last summer. The Cabinet Office were notified of this, as requested by Ms Braverman. She was not and is not disqualified from driving.’
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: ‘As Home Secretary Suella Braverman is responsible for upholding the law, yet this report suggests she tried to abuse her position to get round the normal rules, so it is one rule for her and another for everyone else.’
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said in a letter to the Prime Minister on Sunday that: ‘Any attempt to direct civil servants to obtain special treatment in this matter would clearly amount to an unacceptable abuse of power and privilege by the Home Secretary.’
Ms Rayner demanded that the Prime Minister investigate the matter ‘without further delay’ and said the public had a ‘right to know’ whether the Home Secretary had abused her position.
Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said the Prime Minister was ‘so weak’ he couldn’t ‘even make sure his own ministers maintain the very basic level of integrity’.
Mrs Braverman becomes the third Home Office Minister in recent months to have committed a driving offence.
Last month, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick was handed a six-month driving ban and a fine after being caught speeding on the M1 while Security Minister Tom Tugendhat was last year banned for six months after pleading guilty to using his phone while driving.
The Home Office is responsible for the police, speeding offences and penalty notices.
Source: Read Full Article