UK PM Sunak gives Suella Braverman clean chit on driving fine row

United Kingdom’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman
United Kingdom’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday said that his Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s handling of a speeding offence in 2022 did not breach ministerial rules and will not face an investigation.

After days of speculation around The Sunday Times newspaper claims that Braverman appealed to civil servants to try and avert the normal course of action after being caught speeding, Sunak wrote to his minister to say that he did not believe the actions amounted to a breach of the ministerial code of conduct. The Opposition parties had been demanding Sunak refer the 43-year-old Indian-origin minister to his Independent Adviser on ethics, Sir Laurie Magnus, to determine if there had been a breach.

Braverman was caught speeding in June 2022, while she was attorney general, and given the option of three penalty points or a group speed awareness course.

I have consulted with my Independent Adviser. He has advised that on this occasion further investigation is not necessary and I have accepted that advice. On the basis of your letter and our discussion, my decision is that these matters do not amount to a breach of the Ministerial Code, Sunak wrote in a letter to Braverman.

“As you have recognised, a better course of action could have been taken to avoid giving rise to the perception of impropriety. Nevertheless, I am reassured you take these matters seriously. You have provided a thorough account, apologised and expressed regret,” he said, with reference to Braverman’s letter to her boss apologising for the distraction the controversy had caused the government.

Sunak reiterated that he believes integrity, professionalism and accountability are core values of his leadership and it is right when issues are raised, they are looked at professionally to ensure the appropriate course of action.

In the exchange of letters released by Downing Street, the Home Secretary admitted that “if faced with a similar situation again, I would have chosen a different course of action”.

She said she had “at all times been truthful and transparent, and taken decisions guided by what I believed was right and appropriate given my office, not by any personal motivation”.

The Sunday Times newspaper reported that instead of signing up for an in-person speed awareness course with other motorists or completing one online that would show her name and face to other participants, Braverman allegedly asked civil servants to arrange a private one-to-one course.

When the civil servants refused, she reportedly sought help from a political aide, who requested for the course organiser to provide a private session, or allow her to use an alias or turn her camera off.

When the course provider refused, Braverman opted to take the penalty points on her licence which she was trying to avoid.

In a letter to the prime minister, Braverman explained that she “sought to explore whether bespoke arrangements were possible” due to her “personal circumstances” and the security she receives as a government minister.

“I recognise how some people have construed this as me seeking to avoid sanction at no point was that the intention or outcome,” she said.

“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,” she added. The Liberal Democrats have branded Sunaks decision “a cowardly cop-out”.

“Sunak is too weak to even order an investigation, let alone sack his home secretary,” Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said.

Braverman resigned as home secretary in October last year after admitting breaches of the ministerial code during Liz Truss’s short-lived premiership.

She returned as home secretary after Sunak became prime minister, and has been spearheading his government’s efforts to curb the arrival of migrants on small boats.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)