Rishi Sunak to consult ethics adviser over Suella Braverman speeding claims
The Home Secretary is expected to face questions about claims she asked civil servants to help her to arrange a private speed awareness course as the threat of an inquiry hangs over her.
The Prime Minister is expected to speak with Suella Braverman following suggestions her alleged request for support from Home Office officials after being caught speeding may have breached the ministerial code.
Rishi Sunak, who faced questions about the Home Secretary’s handling of her speeding ticket while in Japan for a G7 leaders’ meeting, will also seek advice from his ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus about how to proceed.
Sir Laurie cannot begin an investigation into a minister’s conduct without Mr Sunak, who was due back from Asia on Monday, signing-off on an inquiry.
“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.
The Conservative Party leader is also expected to speak to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case following suggestions it was the Cabinet Office that ordered Home Office officials not to offer Mrs Braverman advice on securing a private course.
Mrs Braverman may face a grilling about her response to being caught speeding during visits on Monday morning and then again in the House of Commons during Home Office questions.
Opposition MPs could apply to Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle for an urgent question on the matter as well.
Labour has urged Mr Sunak to “show some backbone” and commission an investigation “without delay” into the claims facing his Home Secretary.
Mr Sunak refused to back Mrs Braverman when asked for his opinion at a press briefing on Sunday but Downing Street later said he retained confidence in her.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner, in a letter to Mr Sunak, said his independent adviser should probe whether Mrs Braverman asked civil servants to help her enlist in a private driving course as she reportedly looked to avoid incurring points on her driving licence.
The senior Opposition MP said that, if the Cabinet minister had done so, it may amount to a breach of the ministerial code.
She said the code laid out that ministers must uphold the political impartiality of the Civil Service and not ask officials 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”.
Ms Rayner said: “Members of the Cabinet are subject to the same laws as the rest of us, and 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.”
It comes as a former senior civil servant said he thought Mrs Braverman appeared to have put civil servants in an “impossible situation”.
Philip Ryecroft, formerly the permanent secretary at the now-defunct Department for Exiting the European Union, told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour programme: “This on the face of it I think is a breach of the ministerial code.
“Obviously, there’s still investigations to be done and so on but the code is very clear. Ministers must ensure that no conflict arises or appears to arise between their public duties and their private interests.
“Even asking a question of a civil servant as to how she might go on one of these courses puts them in an impossible position.”
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 not to have to accept 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 regretted speeding and had 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.
But The Sunday Times, which first reported the story, said it was not until she became Home Secretary during Liz Truss’ brief premiership that the senior Tory called on the Civil Service for advice.
According to The Daily Mirror, the Home Secretary’s special adviser had repeatedly denied that Mrs Braverman had been caught speeding when a reporter from the newspaper put the suggestion to them last month.
The newspaper has published a transcript of the exchange. The aide declined to comment when approached by PA news agency.