Suella Braverman "Regrets" Speeding Fine As Pressure Mounts For Ethics Inquiry
Suella Braverman told the Commons she "regretted" speeding but had paid her fine (parliamentlive.tv)
Suella Braverman has said she "regrets" speeding as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces pressure to refer her to the government's ethics adviser after reports she asked civil servants to arrange a private speed awareness course.
Braverman was caught driving over the speed limit outside of London last year. According to the Sunday Times, she asked civil servants to arrange a private driving awareness course to avoid participating in a group session with members of the public. She instead opted to pay a fine and accept penalty points on her driving licence.
In the Commons on Monday, Braverman expressed contrition over the speeding offence, which took place last summer. "I regret that, I paid the fine and I accepted the points, and at no point did I seek to evade the sanctions," she told MPs.
In an earlier statement on Monday, she said that "nothing untoward has happened”.
But Sunak is now under increasing pressure to instruct the government's independent ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus to investigate whether Braverman broke the ministerial code if she sought advice from civil servants on whether she could take a driving awareness course in private. Her requests were reportedly refused.
Downing Street confirmed that Sunak had spoken with Magnus about the matter on Monday morning but is yet to make a decision on how to proceed.
"The PM is availing himself of all the information," his spokesperson said. They confirmed that the Prime Minister has confidence in the Home Secretary.
Angela Rayner MP, Labour's Deputy Leader and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, called for Sunak to order an inquiry into the Home Secretary's conduct.
“While Suella Braverman fails to answer basic questions and gives the impression she has something to hide, Rishi Sunak is once again dithering and delaying rather than taking action over yet another case of misconduct in his crumbling Cabinet," Rayner said.
“The Prime Minister must order an ethics investigation to get to the bottom of this. We’ve had 13 years of the Tories defending themselves and their mates. Enough is enough."
Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck challenged Braverman in the Commons by asking whether anyone should be "above the law" when it comes to speeding. Labour MP Sarah Jones asked Braverman whether members of the public should be able to get private courses when caught speeding, and asked what the home secretary had asked civil servants to help her with.
Braverman has also faced some criticism from within her own party. Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood told TalkTV he thought her actions were damaging for his party’s electoral prospects.
“You put your hand up, you pay your fine. You don’t try and pull strings and seek favours because of your connections to try and cover it up," he said.
“I believe there is less sympathy for the Home Secretary because we are just beginning to return to normality after a turbulent year in Conservative politics.
“Polls are narrowing but we have a Home Secretary stirring the right of our party... seemingly writing off our prospects of winning the next general election, rather than getting behind the prime minister.”
But many Tory MPs still support Braverman despite a number of occasions where her suitability for high office has been called into question, including as recently as last week when she appeared to deviate from the government's position on migration.
Conservative MP Adam Afriyie accused civil servants involved in the incident of “undermining” the Home Secretary.
“It would be good to see civil servants focussed on stopping the unfair illegal immigration into our country on small boats, rather than undermining government ministers,” he told PoliticsHome.
He said it was “vital” that there is “impartiality and trust” in the civil service.
Another Tory backbencher echoed Braverman in saying that "nothing untoward has happened", and instead took issue with the civil service, accusing officials of negative briefings to the press.
"If it's come from the civil service, how can any minister have trust in the people around them?," they said.
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe