Suella Braverman should quit if she broke ministerial code over speeding incident, says Starmer
Suella Braverman should quit if she is found to have broken the ministerial code over a speeding incident, Sir Keir Starmer said on Monday.
The Labour leader said the Home Secretary’s actions appear to have been “inappropriate” after she allegedly asked civil servants to help her arrange a private speeding awareness course rather than take three points on her licence and a fine.
Sir Keir told 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.”
He stressed that Rishi Sunak who, as he took over as Prime Minister, talked about “integrity, about transparency and honesty” should order an independent investigation into the latest row to hit Ms Braverman.
“If she’s breached the ministerial code she should go ... in the end it’s the ministerial code that matters,” he added.
Earlier, a former Whitehall mandarin claimed Ms Braverman breached the ministerial code by asking civil servants to get involved in the speeding issue.
Philip Rycroft, who was the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union, added that the Prime Minister’s ethics adviser would be able to quickly establish the facts around the latest row to hit the Home Secretary.
Ex-Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers, Tory MP for Chipping Barnet, said Ms Braverman faces “serious questions” over the speeding issue but did not want to rush to judgement.
Rishi Sunak was on Monday due to speak to Sir Laurie Magnus, his Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests, after returning from a G7 summit in Japan where he was clearly irritated to be asked by reporters about Ms Braverman’s speeding rather than the Ukraine conflict or other issues discussed at the gathering.
While MPs and Whitehall experts may have a view on whether what Ms Braverman allegedly did amounted to a breach of the ministerial code, it would be down to Sir Laurie and the PM to decide if it actually did.
Mr Sunak was also expected to talk to the Home Secretary about the claims that she asked civil servants and an aide to help her to arrange a private speed awareness course rather than take three points and a fine.
She is said to have been caught speeding in 2022 while Attorney General, Britain’s top law officer.
A private speed awareness course, unlike a public one, could have allowed Ms Braverman to keep secret the speeding incident.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, Mr Rycroft said: “This on the face of it I think is a breach of the ministerial code. Obviously, there’s still investigations to be done and so on but the code is very clear. Ministers must ensure that no conflict arises or appears to arise between their public duties and their private interests. Even asking a question of a civil servant as to how she might go on one of these courses puts them in an impossible position.”
With Ms Braverman set to appear in the Commons for Home Office questions on Monday, he added: “A mea culpa in the House I suspect would help (her) but I think she’s probably edged herself a little nearer the exit door again.”
Pressed whether there should be an investigation, the former civil servant explained: “The process has to be gone through. You can’t do something like this and expect people to say ‘oh well, nothing to see here. This has to be looked at, looked at hard. I think the best thing she could do...to clear the air is say look, mistake on my part, shouldn’t have done it. I’ve paid the fine now. I accept I’ve that one wrong, now let’s move on.”
Ex-Northern Ireland Secretary Ms Villiers believes Mr Sunak will “reflect carefully on what’s happened, to establish the facts”.
She added: “He’ll be meeting his ethics adviser to do that…. Obviously these are serious questions but the reality is also the Home Secretary took the points and paid the fine. “So I think we’ll just have to await the outcome of the Prime Minister’s meeting (with Laurie Magnus).”
She added: “Speaking as someone who lived with police protection for very nearly four years, it does complicate your life and you do end up asking civil servants questions about what would normally be domestic things so I think that is a context to bear in mind when decisions are taken of what happens as a result of this question.”
Ex-Cabinet minister John Redwood defended Ms Braverman, tweeting: “Ministers should be able to talk to civil servants about their options without being accused of breaking the Ministerial code. Surely they only break the code if they do the wrong thing after the conversation.”
Mr Sunak was also expected to speak to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case following suggestions it was the Cabinet Office that ordered Home Office officials not to offer Mrs Braverman advice on securing a private course.
Labour has urged Mr Sunak to “show some backbone” and commission an investigation “without delay” into the claims facing his Home Secretary.
Mr Sunak refused to back Mrs Braverman when asked for his opinion at a press briefing on Sunday but Downing Street later said he retained confidence in her.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner, in a letter to Mr Sunak, said his independent adviser should probe whether Mrs Braverman asked civil servants to help her enlist in a private driving course as she reportedly looked to avoid incurring points on her driving licence.
The senior Opposition MP said that, if the Cabinet minister had done so, it may amount to a breach of the ministerial code.
She said the code laid out that ministers must uphold the political impartiality of the Civil Service and not ask officials to act in any way which would conflict with the Civil Service Code.
The code by which civil servants must abide states that public servants must not “misuse” their position to “further private interests or those of others”.
According to The Sunday Times, Mrs Braverman asked Home Office civil servants to help organise a one-to-one driving awareness course as she was keen not to have to accept three points on her licence for a speeding offence.
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 having to attend a course with other motorists.
A spokesman for the Home Secretary said she regretted speeding and had since accepted the points and paid the fine.
The speeding offence reportedly took place on a road outside London last year.
But The Sunday Times, which first reported the story, said it was not until she became Home Secretary during Liz Truss’ brief premiership that the senior Tory called on the Civil Service for advice.
Ms Braverman resigned as Home Secretary during the Truss administration after admitting breaching the ministerial code in a row over her use of a private email account to discuss Government’s immigration plans.
She was brought back into Cabinet by Mr Sunak after she backed his bid to be Tory leader.