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Suella Braverman 'asked civil servants to help on speeding fine'
Suella Braverman’s job on the line over ‘asking civil servants to help dodge speeding fine’: Rishi Sunak will consult sleaze watchdog TODAY amid claims Home Secretary ‘breached ministerial code’ – seven months after she was forced to quit in email row
- Home Secretary will be grilled in House of Commons after the claims surfaced
Suella Braverman is facing a moment of truth today after claims emerged she asked civil servants to help dodge a speeding fine.
Rishi Sunak is set to consult his sleaze watchdog amid allegations that the Home Secretary wanted officials to arrange a private speed awareness course so that she would not be seen by other motorists.
Ms Braverman is also due to be grilled in the House of Commons over whether she breached the ministerial code – just eight months after she was forced to quit in a separate row over use of her private email.
Her allies say the story is a political smear and she merely asked for advice then dealt with the matter herself, accepting a fine and three points for going over a 50mph limit.
The PM is confronting the crisis after flying back to the UK from Japan, where he initially refused to say whether Ms Braverman would face an investigation.
Aides said he had been too busy at the G7 summit to speak to his minister directly yesterday, but will consider the situation with ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus later.
Sir Laurie cannot begin an investigation into a minister’s conduct without Mr Sunak’s agreement.
Mrs Braverman is said to have been caught speeding outside London last summer, when she was Attorney General.
Suella Braverman is facing a moment of truth today after claims emerged she asked civil servants to help dodge a speeding fine
Rishi Sunak is set to consult his sleaze watchdog amid allegations that the Home Secretary wanted officials to arrange a private speed awareness course so that she would not be seen by other motorists
The controversy – revealed by The Mail on Sunday – is set to dominate Westminster today with Labour expected to demand ministers answer an urgent question. Mrs Braverman was already scheduled to make a visit this morning and appear in the Commons to answer Home Office questions.
Keir Starmer said Ms Braverman’s actions seemed to have been ‘inappropriate’ and she should resign if she is found to have breached the ministerial code.
He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘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.’
Sir Keir said he did not want to get ‘ahead of himself’ in calling for Ms Braverman to resign but said: ‘I think if she’s breached the ministerial code she should go … in the end it’s the ministerial code that matters.’
Whitehall sources said they expected the PM to stand by Mrs Braverman unless her story started to unravel. But they warned he had not had time to fully examine the matter.
Last October Ms Braverman was forced to quit after breaching the ministerial code by sharing an official document with a fellow MP using her personal email account.
She used her resignation letter to express ‘concerns about the direction of this Government’, then led by Liz Truss. Just a week later she was reappointed by Rishi Sunak. Since then she has risked angering No 10 with her outspoken views on immigration.
Tory MP Miriam Cates said: ‘Suella has done nothing wrong. Around 1.5million people take speed awareness courses every year so it’s hardly a news story.
‘In smearing the Home Secretary like this, someone is clearly seeking to play the man not the ball. It’s underhand and undermines democracy.’
A one-on-one speed awareness session would have allowed Ms Braverman to avoid the three penalty points on her licence and avoid being spotted by other motorists on a group course.
It is claimed that when officials refused to co-operate on the grounds that civil service rules prevented them from dealing with personal matters, a political aide contacted the course provider – 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.
A visibly irritated Mr Sunak declined to say yesterday whether he would be ordering an inquiry, or confirm that he backed the Home Secretary – although a Downing Street spokeswoman said later that ‘of course’ he did.
Ms Braverman also faced warnings from Conservative colleagues that she had a ‘case to answer’.
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.
Former Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers told BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster that Mr Sunak would ‘reflect carefully’ on the situation.
But she cautioned: ‘Speaking as someone who lived with police protection for very nearly four years, it does complicate your life and you do end up asking civil servants questions about what would normally be domestic things so I think that is a context to bear in mind when decisions are taken of what happens as a result of this question.’
Ex-Whitehall mandarin Philip Rycroft said it was ‘on the face of it’ 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,’ he said.
‘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.’
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.
Jake Berry, a former minister, highlighted that several high-profile public figures had recently accepted points and fines for speeding
‘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.’
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