Suella Braverman’s request for permission to take a private speed awareness course won’t result in an investigation, but Rishi Sunak criticized the way she handled the situation.
The Prime Minister decided against requesting a formal investigation into the situation after consulting with his ethics counsel. He stated that “these matters do not amount to a breach of the ministerial code” in his statement.
But in a letter to Mrs Braverman, the Home Secretary, he said: “As you have recognised, a better course of action could have been taken to avoid giving rise to the perception of impropriety.”
Opponents claim that Mrs. Braverman violated the code by soliciting taxpayer-funded civil officials for assistance with a personal concern.
Later, she agreed to pay a fine and receive driving-related points for the infraction of speeding.
A “cosy exchange of letters” appears to have taken the place of the “recognised process” for examining ministerial behaviour, according to Labour, which criticized the decision.
“The whole point of having an independent adviser is so that these matters can be looked at thoroughly and these facts can be put in the public domain in a way that isn’t subject to political spin,” a party spokesman said.
In her letter to Mr. Sunak, the Home Secretary stated: “I sought to explore whether bespoke arrangements were possible, given my personal circumstances as a security-protected minister.
“I recognise how some people have construed this as me seeking to avoid sanction – at no point was that the intention or outcome.
“Nonetheless, given the fundamental importance of integrity in public life, I deeply regret that my actions may have given rise to that perception, and I apologise for the distraction this has caused.”
When Mrs. Braverman was attorney general, she was offered the choice of taking a group speed awareness course or receiving three penalty points for speeding in June 2022.
She claimed that after making the decision to enroll in the course and making a reservation, she spoke with officials about whether the group session was acceptable “given my new role” and the security issues associated with the position after being appointed Home Secretary in September.
According to Mrs. Braverman, she was informed by her principal private secretary (PPS) that the Propriety and Ethics Team (PET) of the Cabinet Office would be “the best source of advice on whether it was appropriate to seek to do the course in a way that protected my privacy, security, and was least disruptive to the course participants and provider”
According to the PET, it was “not an appropriate matter for civil servants to pursue,” according to Mrs. Braverman.
Her special advisors expressed worry about her taking an online course due to the possibility of being “covertly recorded” and the challenges of implementing “appropriate security arrangements” if she attended an in-person session, but she claimed that her PPS indicated she may discuss the topic with them.
“Special advisers then contacted the course provider to better understand the range of appropriate options that might be available – and consistent with the course provider’s rules, policies and practices,” she said.
“Based on this further information, I concluded that none of these could satisfactorily address the aforementioned security, privacy and political concerns. I therefore opted to take the points and pay the fine, which I did in November.“
She added: “I regret that my attempt to find a way to participate in the course in a manner that would have satisfied these concerns has enabled some to construe a potential conflict of interest.
“With hindsight, I acknowledge that the better course of action would have been to take the points and fine upfront.”
“I am reassured you take these matters seriously,” Mr. Sunak wrote in his letter to the Home Secretary. You’ve given a complete explanation, apologized, and expressed regret.
“It is vital that all those in Government maintain the high standards the public rightly expects.”
Just hours before he met MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr. Sunak revealed his decision not to request a probe from Sir Laurie Magnus, his independent adviser on ministers’ interests.
As a result, he avoids a confrontation with one of the party’s top right-wing figures at a time when he is already dealing with discontent among Boris Johnson’s supporters after it was revealed that officials had called police about worries about potential lockdown-busting activities in Chequers and Downing Street.
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Mrs. Braverman sat next to Mr. Sunak as a sign of solidarity.
During inquiries regarding immigration and employment regulations, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer made fun of her, alleging she has trouble “coping with points-based systems,” and he asked Mr. Sunak, “Does he wish he had the strength to give her a career change of her own?”
Sunak had the option to do the right thing, but he once again chose to be dominated by his own extreme backbenchers, according to Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain. Despite holding office, he has very little influence.