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Rishi Sunak Defends Suella Braverman Appointment Despite Security Breach In First PMQs

Rishi Sunak has appeared for his first PMQs (alamy)

4 min read

Rishi Sunak has used his first Prime Minister's Questions to defend his reappointment of Home Secretary Suella Braverman less than a week after she resigned over a security breach, claiming she had made an "error of judgement" for which she has apologised.

Today marks the first Commons appearance for Sunak since being selected as Conservative leader on Monday, and becoming Prime Minister on Tuesday. 

He has since faced criticism over appointing Braverman as Home Secretary in a major cabinet reshuffle, just six days after she was forced to resign from the role for breaching the ministerial code after she used her private email to share government documents.

Labour leader Keir Starmer used the PMQs session to question Sunak's decision to reappoint Braverman, saying she had been sacked by Truss for "pinging around" sensitive documents.

He also accused the Prime Minister of doing a "grubby deal" by offering Braverman her job back in return for her support during the leadership election.

"Yesterday, the Prime Minister stood on the steps of Downing Street and promised professionalism, integrity and accountability," he said.

"But then in his first act he appointed a Home Secretary who was sacked by his predecessor a week ago for deliberatly pinging around sensitive Home Office documents from her personal account."

But defending his decison, Sunak said Braverman had accepted her "error of judgement", from which he believes the government can move on. 

"She raised the matter and she accepted her mistake, and that is why I was delighted her back into a united cabinet that brings unity and stability to the heart of government," he said.

"What the Home Secretary will be focussed on is cracking down on criminals, on defending our borders, while the party opposite remains soft on crime and in favour of unlimited immigration."

Following Braverman's appointment, Labour and the Lib Dems have called for the Cabinet Office to conduct a full investigation into her conduct and the possibility of other security breaches.

Earlier on Wednesday Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed he was delaying his planned fiscal statement from 31 October to 17 November in order to allow more time to reach "difficult decisions" on how the government balances the books after Sunak implemented a major cabinet reshuffle on becoming Prime Minister. 

Hunt was retained as Chancellor in Sunak's cabinet reshuffle after he was widely credited with helping calm market jitters in the wake of Truss's disastrous mini-Budget.

Speaking on Wednesday, Hunt said: "Our number one priority is economic stability and restoring confidence that the United Kingdom is a country that pays its way.

"But it is also extremely important the statement is based on the most accurate possible economic forecasts and forecasts of public finances."

But Starmer said working people had been "hammered" by the recent economic turmoil as he called on Sunak to use the upcoming statement to provide more support for households.

Sunak said he would "always protect the most vulnerable" as he insisted his government would "take difficult decisions to restore economic stability and confidence".

"But what I can say, as we did during COVID, we will always protect the most vulnerable," he added.

"We will do this our way. This government is going to restore economic stability and we will do it in a fair and compassionate way."

Starmer also challenged the Prime Minister to use the 17 November statement to ditch non-dom status, which he claimed would raise £3.2bn for the Treasury.

Earlier this year Sunak was forced to defend his wife's own tax arrangements during his time as Chancellor after it emerged that she had used the status to reduce her UK tax burden on her multi-billion pound income. She has since relinquished the status and increased her UK tax contribution. 

"I don't need to explain to the prime minister how non-dom status works – he already knows all about that." Starmer told the Commons today. 

But swerving the tax issue, Sunak said he would not comment on any spending plans ahead of Hunt's statement.

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