Rishi Sunak faces an awkward Cabinet meeting on Tuesday as he mulls whether to order an investigation into Suella Braverman’s handling of a speeding offence, a scandal that threatens to deepen rifts in the Tory party.
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.
Mrs 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 Mrs 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 Mrs 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.
Mr Sunak spoke to both his independent adviser on ministers’ interests Sir Laurie Magnus and the Home Secretary on Monday as he considered his response.
Sir Laurie cannot begin an investigation into a minister’s conduct without the authorisation of the Prime Minister.
Downing Street said Mr Sunak still had confidence in Mrs 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 Mrs Braverman was serving as attorney general.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mrs 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.