22 May 2023

Braverman insists ‘nothing untoward’ happened over speeding offence

22 May 2023

Suella Braverman insisted there was “nothing untoward” about her handling of a speeding offence as Rishi Sunak considered whether to launch a formal investigation.

The Home Secretary is under pressure after reports she asked officials to try to arrange a private speed awareness course for her rather than take penalty points on her driving licence.

In her first public comments on the row, Mrs Braverman did not deny asking civil servants to intervene.

Asked directly if she asked officials to arrange a one-to-one course for her, she said: “Last summer, I was speeding. I regret that. I paid the fine and I took the points but we’re focused now on delivering for the British people and working for them.”

Pressed on the same question, she said: “In relation to the process, I’m focused on delivering for the British people, doing my job as Home Secretary and what I will say is that, in my view, I’m confident that nothing untoward has happened.”

After speaking to broadcasters, Mrs Braverman appeared for a regular session of Home Office questions in the Commons, telling MPs: “I paid the fine and I took the penalty and at no point did I attempt to evade sanction.”

Mr Sunak has spoken to his ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus about Mrs Braverman, Downing Street said.

No formal inquiry has yet been launched into whether she breached the ministerial code, it is understood.

A No 10 spokesman said Mr Sunak was “availing himself of information” about the situation after his return from the G7 summit overnight.

But Mr Sunak continued to have confidence in his Home Secretary, the spokesman said.

“He and the Home Secretary continue to work closely on the public’s priorities, not least tackling illegal immigration,” he added.

I think if she’s breached the ministerial code she should go

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mrs Braverman should resign if she is found to have broken the ministerial code.

Sir Laurie cannot begin an investigation into a minister’s conduct without the authorisation of the Prime Minister.

Sir Keir 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.”

The Labour leader said he did not want to get “ahead of himself” in calling for Mrs 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.”

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union which represents senior officials, 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 row stems from a Sunday Times report that Mrs Braverman asked Home Office civil servants to help arrange a one-to-one driving awareness course, rather than the group session usually offered to motorists for minor speeding offences.

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 a course with members of the public.

The speeding offence took place last year when Mrs Braverman was serving as attorney general.

According to The Daily Mirror, the Home Secretary’s special adviser repeatedly denied that Mrs Braverman had been caught speeding when a reporter from the newspaper put the suggestion to them last month.

A No 10 spokesman said that “of course” advisers should tell the truth to the press.

The spokesman insisted that Mr Sunak still believes that “integrity, professionalism and accountability are core values” for his administration.

Allies of Mrs Braverman defended her, with former Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg suggesting there was no need for an investigation.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “I would have thought the Prime Minister could think this through pretty clearly, that this is not a big story.”

He added: “What goes on in private offices is that a minister is busy, has many things to do and sometimes will ask for something that civil servants can’t do.

“But as long as, once they’ve said no, you accept it, then you haven’t done anything wrong.”

Tory MP Miriam Cates told the Daily Mail: “Suella has done nothing wrong.

“Around 1.5 million 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.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox