Sunak Keeps Options Open on UK Home Secretary’s Future

(Bloomberg) -- UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak suggested he would seek answers after a newspaper report that Home Secretary Suella Braverman sought civil servants’ help to deal with the fallout from a speeding ticket last year.

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Speaking at a press conference at the G-7 summit in Japan, Sunak kept his options open on Braverman’s political future. “I don’t know the full details of what’s happened, nor I have I spoken to the home secretary,” the premier said when asked if he still backed her. A Downing Street spokeswoman later said Sunak still had confidence in Braverman.

“Ms. Braverman accepts that she was speeding last summer and regrets doing so,” a spokesman for the Home Secretary said. “She took the three points and paid the fine last year.”

Sunak will speak with his independent ethics adviser regarding the speeding fine when he returns to London, Sky News reported Sunday evening.

Ministers are barred from using civil servants to help with their personal affairs. Braverman, 43, oversees law enforcement and is a prominent figure among the ruling Conservative Party’s populist right.

In September, Braverman asked civil servants to help her arrange a one-on-one driving-awareness course to avoid a speeding fine and points on her license, the Sunday Times reported. In-person courses usually require drivers to participate with other motorists while online ones would require their names and faces to be visible.

When civil servants refused to help, Braverman turned to a political aide to secure special arrangements with a course provider, the paper said. She ultimately decided to take the points and pay the fine after the aide’s efforts were unsuccessful.

Sunak “should have never had appointed her in the first place.” the Labour Party’s Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said in an interview Sunday with the BBC. “He’s been too weak to sack her for incompetence and now he’s so weak, he won’t even call an inquiry into her conduct.”

The incident has come to light at a time when Braverman is at the center of a fraught Tory debate over surging levels of immigration, which her office oversees. Earlier this week, she called for reducing arrivals into the country in a speech to a Conservative Party gathering that was widely seen as an effort to present herself as a potential Sunak successor.

The events detailed in the Sunday Times report took place shortly after Braverman was appointed as home secretary by Sunak’s short-tenured predecessor, Liz Truss. She was fired by Truss in October for breaching ministerial rules by sending an official document from her personal email to a fellow member of Parliament.

Sunak reappointed her just six days in one of his first acts as prime minister.

--With assistance from Alex Wickham.

(Updates with independent adviser in fourth paragraph.)

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