Sunday, 28 May 2023

Rishi Sunak holds back from taking sides in Braverman speeding row

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has stopped short of giving his full backing to Suella Braverman in a row over reports she asked civil servants to give her special treatment after being caught speeding.

The home secretary is said to have asked officials in her department to organise a one-on-one driving awareness course last summer while she was serving as attorney general.

Such an arrangement, which is not available to the general public, would have meant she did not have to sit with other motorists at an in-person session.

The Sunday Times reported that after her request was refused, she turned to a political aide to ask whether she could undertake an online course – but under an alias and with her camera off.

However, that suggestion was also allegedly refused, and she ultimately accepted three points on her licence.

When Mr Sunak was asked about the incident by reporters at a press conference in Japan, he replied that he did not know the ‘full details’ and had not spoken to Ms Braverman yet.

He said: ‘I don’t know the full details of what has happened nor have I spoken to the home secretary.

‘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.’

A No 10 spokeswoman later said the prime minister ‘of course’ has full confidence in his home secretary, responding to a message: ‘Yes, he does.’

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The PM appeared to be frustrated by the repeated questions about the home secretary, and whether he would be asking his ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus to investigate the claims.

‘Did you have any questions about the summit?’ he asked, before being further quizzed on Ms Braverman.

On Twitter, Sunday Times journalist Harry Yorke said his story appeared to be ‘completely news’ to Downing Street when he notified them about it yesterday and that the prime minister was ‘never informed’ about the offence or the alleged discussions with civil servants.

Asked about the incident on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, Environment Secretary Therese Coffey also said she did not know enough to comment as she had only read the story ‘about 20 minutes’ before.

She said: ‘I haven’t got any extra information, not aware of any further details on that.

‘It’s perfectly normal nowadays, if people are found speeding to be offered points or to on a course of some kind.’

Ms Coffey confirmed to the presenter that she does have the home secretary’s phone number, but said: ‘I don’t make it my business to go around phoning people at 7.20am when I’ve just read a bit of newspaper to look into this.’

Meanwhile, high-profile celebrity lawyer Nick Freeman – known as ‘Mr Loophole’ – argued that arrangements similar to the one requested by Ms Braverman had happened before.

He said: ‘She hasn’t broken law or done anything wrong. I’ve arranged private courses for several high profile clients.

‘In fact course providers prefer it as less disruptive. If Suella Braverman had lawyer wouldn’t have been political fall out due to confidentiality.’

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