Why is Suella Braverman in trouble about the way she handled a speeding offence?

Why is Suella Braverman in trouble about the way she handled a speeding offence?
Rishi Sunak avoids backing Suella Braverman over speeding points allegations

Suella Braverman is back in the news for being very speedy.

No, the home secretary hasn't quickly fixed all the problems plaguing the home office at pace. And no, she didn't do a marathon or anything.

Instead, she was caught driving too fast in her car in 2022 and handling it in a potentially iffy way.

So much so that prime minister Rishi Sunak consulted his ethics adviser about how she handled the offence.

Sign up to our free Indy100 weekly newsletter

What is going on?

Here's everything we know about the case.

What happened?

As first reported in the Sunday Times, the home secretary was caught speeding in 2022 when she was attorney general.

While she is not in trouble for speeding, she is potentially in trouble for asking the civil service for advice about arranging a private speed awareness course.

Braverman faced losing three points on her licence and a fine, or a course as part of a group.

She was reportedly concerned about her insurance premiums, and favoured doing a course but had security concerns about doing one as part of a group so asked about one-on-one courses. She was told it was not a matter for the civil service so she then asked a special adviser to try to arrange a private course.

When the speed course provider said there was no option to do this, Braverman decided to pay the fine and accept the points, because she was "very busy" a source reportedly told the BBC.

By this point, she had been reappointed as home secretary in Sunak's government.

What does the ministerial code say?

The civil service code makes clear that civil servants must not “act in a way that is determined by party political considerations”; use “official resources for party political purposes”; “be influenced by improper pressures”; or “act in a way that unjustifiably favours or discriminates against particular individuals or interests.”

The ministerial code also says that ministers “must uphold the political impartiality of the civil service and not ask civil servants to act in any way which would conflict with the civil service code”.

The code states that ministers “must ensure that no conflict arises, or could reasonably be perceived to arise, between their public duties and their private interests, financial or otherwise”.

What has Rishi Sunak said?

While attending the G7 summit, Sunak initially dodged questions about whether he would arrange an investigation.

"I don't know the full details of what has happened, nor have I spoken to the home secretary," Sunak said.

"But I understand she has expressed regret for speeding, accepted the penalty and paid the fine."

After pressure, he met Sir Laurie Magnus, his ethics adviser, to discuss whether Magnus should launch an inquiry into claims Braverman broke the ministerial code. Following the meeting, a No 10 spokesperson told journalists an inquiry had not been launched.

He reportedly said: "The prime minister remains clear that integrity, professionalism and accountability are core values. As you would expect, the prime minister has been availing himself of information having just returned from the G7 this morning.

"I obviously can’t comment on ongoing private conversations, including with independent advisor, but I will endeavour to keep you updated."

By Wednesday, he had decided to let the matter rest.

In a letter to Braverman, the prime minister said he had decided "these matters do not amount to a breach of the ministerial code".

Sunak said while action could have been taken to avoid "the perception of impropriety", he was nevertheless reassured that Mrs Braverman took "these matters seriously" and had "expressed regret".

What has Braverman said?

Braverman said she is “confident that nothing untoward happened”.

In a clip for broadcasters, she said she was caught speeding, that she paid the fine and took the points.

But she refused to exactly what dealings she did have with her civil servants on this, and she did not deny asking them for help.

"What I will say is that, in my view, I’m confident that nothing untoward has happened," she said.

In her letter to Sunak responding to his decision, Braverman said she regretted speeding but insisted "at no point did I try to avoid sanction".

"My actions were always directed toward finding an appropriate way to participate in the speed awareness course, taking into account my new role as home secretary and the necessary security and privacy issues that this raised," Braverman wrote.

How have others reacted?

Braverman has garnered criticism for her behaviour.

Speaking to the Westminster Hour on BBC Radio 4, former senior civil servant Sir Philip Rycroft said Braverman's reported actions appeared to be a "real lapse of judgement".

"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."

As opposition parties called for an inquiry into whether she breached ministerial rules, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it looked like "inappropriate action took place".

Nazir Afzal, a former chief prosecutor for the northwest, said there was “one law for Suella, another for the rest of us”.

He added: “Many who are offered a course rather than points for speeding are grateful for the opportunity. Part of its usefulness is that speeders learn together. The home secretary thinks that this doesn’t apply to her. That somehow she can’t be seen to accept responsibility for her actions in a classroom setting, it’s the arrogance of power.”

Amy Leversidge, assistant general secretary of the FDA union said "it looks very clear" that Braverman breached the code.

Carol Vorderman said:

But some of her colleagues have expressed their support.

Tory MP John Redwood said:

When has Suella Braverman been in trouble before?

Braverman has faced criticism before. She resigned from Liz Truss's government after she said she sent a draft statement about immigration to her ally, the MP Sir John Hayes, for advice - and accidentally copied in a staffer in the MP Andrew Percy’s office too.

To make matters worse, she sent the email from her personal account rather than her work email. In doing so, she breached the ministerial code twice.

Despite this, she was reappointed to Sunak's government six days later.

Have your say in our news democracy. Click the upvote icon at the top of the page to help raise this article through the indy100 rankings.

The Conversation (0)