The main opposition Labour party has urged UK prime minister Rishi Sunak to launch an ethics probe into claims that home secretary Suella Braverman asked civil servants to help her avoid penalty points on her driving licence for speeding.
Braverman was caught speeding by the police last summer. The minister, who was attorney-general at the time, was given a range of options, including attending a speeding awareness course alongside other members of the public, or having three penalty points added to her licence.
But, according to a report by the Sunday Times, Braverman instead requested help from civil servants and her political aide to arrange a private one-to-one speeding awareness course — an option not offered to other drivers. She later accepted points on her licence when that request was declined, the newspaper said.
A spokesperson for the home secretary did not deny the allegations, but stated: “Ms Braverman accepts that she was speeding last summer and regrets doing so. She took the three points and paid the fine last year.”
Opposition parties have now urged Sunak to launch an ethics inquiry over the matter.
“The prime minister must show some backbone and order his ethics adviser to investigate the home secretary to get to the bottom of this episode without further delay,” said Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner.
In a letter, Rayner called on the prime minister to clarify whether Braverman breached the ministerial code, whether she “encouraged or asked civil servants, officials or special advisers to breach the Civil Service Code by supporting her to further her own private interests”, and when Sunak was informed of the matter.
“The public have a right to know whether the minister responsible for law and order sought to abuse her position in an attempt to gain preferential treatment to avoid a speeding fine,” Rayner added.
“This Conservative cabinet appear to think they are above the laws that govern the rest of us”.
Wendy Chamberlain, Liberal Democrat chief whip, called on Sunak to address the matter in front of MPs in the House of Commons on Monday.
“Rishi Sunak is so weak he can’t even make sure his own ministers maintain the very basic level of integrity,” she said. “The least he can do is come to parliament and explain this farce.”
Downing Street officials confirmed on Sunday evening that, once back in the UK, Sunak will consult with the independent advisor over the matter.
Speaking over the weekend, during a press conference at the G7 conference in Hiroshima, Sunak said Braverman had “expressed regret” over the incident.
Challenged on whether Sir Laurie Magnus, the independent adviser to ministerial interests, would be investigating the matter and whether he had full confidence in his home secretary, the prime minister replied: “I don’t know the full details of what has happened, nor have I spoken to the home secretary.”
He added: “I think you can see first hand what I have been doing over the last day or so but I understand that she’s expressed regret for speeding, accepted the penalty, and paid the fine.”
Downing Street later stressed that the prime minister “of course” had confidence in his home secretary.
These reports come after Braverman was accused of launching a thinly veiled leadership bid last week, in a 4,000 word speech reiterating the importance of reducing “legal migration” as well as crossings on the English Channel.
Her department is braced for new net migration figures from the Office for National Statistics that analysts predict could rise to 700,000 from slightly more than 500,000 in the year to June 2022.
Meanwhile, pressure on the home secretary grew on Sunday evening after the Guardian newspaper reported that Braverman tried to avoid a parliamentary vote on on the government’s small-boats bill despite a three-line whip on the legislation.