Suella Braverman should be given a “rap over the knuckles” rather than being sacked for allegedly asking her civil servants about arranging a speeding course to avoid three points on her licence and a fine, former Tory leader William Hague said on Tuesday.
The Prime Minister is reportedly looking at emails in which officials raised concerns about the cabinet minister’s request for help last autumn to arrange a private speed awareness course for her.
The Home Secretary has been accused of breaching the ministerial code by asking taxpayer-funded civil servants to assist with a private matter.
Lord Hague believes Rishi Sunak will come to a “fair and rational” judgement on the controversy.
He told Times Radio: “Does anything about that merit actually dismissing the Home Secretary from her job.
“I don’t know anything that has been going on internally in the Government.
“But my instinct would be this is a matter for a rap over the knuckles rather than a dismissal.”
Mr Sunak has spoken to Ms Braverman and his ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus about the speeding case and her reportedly asking civil servants to get involved.
He was chairing Cabinet on Tuesday morning and was yet to announce a decision on whether to ask Sir Laurie, the PM’s Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interest, to investigate the matter or not.
Labour MP Jess Phillips tweeted: “Why doesn’t Sunak just sack her, she has little support, she’s useless at her job, she is so poorly prepared and doesn’t know the basics, she’s a terrible media performer and she is in constant scandal. What’s the upside?”
But Lord Hague explained that Mr Sunak had built a Cabinet with “many strands of opinion in the Conservative Party”, stressing that one of the reasons why Liz Truss’ administration had “crashed and burned” so quickly was because she lacked people in her top team who had opposed her in the leadership election or was “going to put a different point of view”.
He argued: “So Rishi has created a stronger, more broadly based Cabinet. Suella is part of that.
“So on the whole, I would stick with her as the Home Secretary.”
On Monday, Ms Braverman insisted she had done “nothing untoward”. She admitted speeding, paid a fine and took penalty points on her licence.
But she did not deny asking officials for help in trying to arrange a one-to-one speed awareness course for her, rather than joining fellow motorists on the programme which allows people with minor offences to avoid incurring points on their licence.
The Times reported officials were so concerned by her alleged request they emailed the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team, who told them to disregard it.
The newspaper suggested Ms Braverman instructed them to organise the course, rather than simply soliciting advice.
This piles pressure on Mr Sunak to launch an investigation into allegations she breached the ministerial code, as does reporting by the Guardian that the most senior civil servant in the Home Office was informed about the claims.
A senior official reported Ms Braverman’s request to Matthew Rycroft, the department’s permanent secretary, due to concerns about whether it was appropriate, the paper was told by sources.
Downing Street said Mr Sunak still had confidence in Ms Braverman, but pointedly refused to back her assertions she had done nothing wrong following the speeding charge last year.
Mr Sunak told MPs he had “asked for further information” and would “update on the appropriate course of action in due course”.
The speeding offence took place last year when Ms Braverman was serving as attorney general.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Ms Braverman should resign if she is found to have broken the ministerial code.
Her allies have argued she was the victim of a smear campaign.