Suella Braverman, the UK home secretary, has insisted she did “nothing untoward” in relation to her handling of a speeding offence following claims she asked officials to help her avoid penalty points on her driving licence.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak is under pressure from opposition parties to launch an investigation in the wake of allegations that Ms Braverman asked civil servants to help her secure special treatment after she was caught speeding last summer.
The minister, then serving as attorney general, sought assistance from officials and a political aide to arrange a private speed awareness course instead of either attending a course with members of the public or accepting three penalty points on her licence, according to the Sunday Times. She accepted the points when her request was declined, it was reported.
Downing Street said Mr Sunak was “availing himself of information” about the incident, and had spoken with his ethics adviser, Sir Laurie Magnus, and Ms Braverman.
Asked by broadcasters about the claims surrounding her handling of her speeding offence, the home secretary said: “I am confident that nothing untoward has happened.”
Later in the House of Commons she evaded questions about what exactly she had asked of civil servants, but said: “Last summer I was speeding. I regret that. I paid the fine and accepted the points. At no point did I seek to evade the sanctions.”
Attempting to deflect attention from the issue, Ms Braverman accused Labour of trying to weaponise the claims about her conduct to distract from substantive discussions on policing policy. “Let’s be honest about what this is all about. The shadow minister would rather distract from the abject failure of the Labour party to offer any serious proposals on crime and policing,” Ms Braverman said.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper also asked Ms Braverman whether she had advised her special adviser to deny she had received a speeding penalty, as reported in the Daily Mirror.
“Everyone can see that she isn’t answering the basic factual questions on what she said to the civil service and to her special adviser. And it matters because it is her job to show she is abiding by the ministerial code that she has broken before...and to enforce rules fairly for everyone else,” Ms Cooper said. “If the home secretary cannot get a grip on her own rule-breaking behaviour, how can she get a grip on anything else?”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Ms Braverman’s actions appeared to have been “inappropriate”. Calling on her to resign if she is found to have breached the ministerial code, the Labour leader told ITV: “I don’t know all the facts but it looks to me as though the home secretary’s actions were inappropriate and they should be investigated.”
Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, echoed calls for an inquiry to establish what happened.
He told Sky News: “Civil servants are publicly-funded. They’re paid for by you and me. They’re not there to support the personal interests of a minister. They don’t do their shopping, they don’t look after their children and they don’t sort out their speeding fine.”
The furore over how the home secretary handled her fine comes amid a backdrop of infighting within the cabinet and the Conservative party over immigration. Official figures due on Thursday are expected to show net migration reached an all-time high of more than 700,000 people in 2022, despite Conservative pledges ahead of the 2019 general election to slash it. Ms Braverman and others on the right of the party are arguing for much tighter controls.
– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023