Rishi Sunak denied ‘dithering’ tonight as Suella Braverman waits to hear if she faces a sleaze probe on claims she asked civil servants to help her dodge a speeding fine.
The PM has still yet to make a decision on whether his ethics adviser will look into the events, with No10 saying he was ‘gathering all the facts before making a decision’.
Ms Braverman allegedly wanted officials to arrange a private speed awareness course so that she would not be seen by other motorists, according to Downing Street.
However, her allies have suggested she only contacted civil servants for advice on how to proceed after being clocked over the limit in a 50mph zone last summer, when she was Attorney General.
Emails seen by The Times suggest they were so concerned by what she requested they contacted the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team, which told them to stay out of the matter.
Tories seemed to be closing ranks around Ms Braverman this afternoon, with even her usual internal foes accepting the mood of the party favours her survival.
Backbenchers came to her defence in the Commons after the Opposition tabled an urgent question about the situation.
Both Mr Sunak and Mrs Braverman addressed a Cabinet meeting this morning about a fresh crackdown on immigration – with crucial new figures due to be published on Thursday.
The Home Secretary joined the Prime Minister this morning in Downing Street as he mulls over whether to order an ethics investigation into one of his most senior ministers
The PM is ‘availing himself of information’ about allegations Mrs Braverman wanted officials to arrange a private speed awareness course so that she would not be seen by other motorists, according to Downing Street
Her allies have suggested she only contacted civil servants for advice on how to proceed after being clocked over the limit in a 50mph zone last summer, when she was Attorney General
Pressure has been mounting on Mr Sunak to launch an investigation into allegations she breached the ministerial code.
A senior official is said to have reported Mrs Braverman’s request to Matthew Rycroft, the department’s permanent secretary, due to concerns about whether it was appropriate, the Guardian was told by sources.
Labour today forced Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin to answer an urgent question in the House of Commons about the row.
He told MPs: ‘Since returning from the G7, the Prime Minister has met both the independent adviser and the Home Secretary and asked for further information.
‘It is right that the Prime Minister, as the head of the executive and the arbiter of the Ministerial Code, be allowed time to receive relevant information on this matter.
‘Honourable members will be updated on this in due course.’
Several Tory MPs came to the defence of the Home Secretary on Tuesday.
Among those who spoke from the backbenches in support of Ms Braverman was Sir Edward Leigh, who told his fellow MPs: ‘All this moral outrage is ludicrous that a minister asked her private office about something and she takes their advice.
‘We all know what’s this is all about; they’re attacking a good Home Secretary who is trying to attack the real scandal of mass immigration to this country.’
Asked why the PM is ‘dithering’, his official spokesman told journalists: ‘I wouldn’t characterise it like that.
‘I think people would understand that it’s right to gather all the facts before making a decision.’
Pressed on why Mr Sunak is carrying out an investigation himself when he has an independent adviser on ministers’ interests, the spokesman said: ‘That’s not how I’d characterise it.
‘He’s asked for some more information before coming to a decision. I’m sure we will have more to say once that’s concluded.’
Labour yesterday used Home Office Questions in the Commons to ask Mrs Braverman repeatedly to clarify what she had asked officials in her department to do.
But she instead repeatedly spoke of her ‘regret’ at having broken the speed limit, adding: ‘At no point did I attempt to evade sanction.’
Speaking in the House of Commons, the shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: ‘At the heart of the Home Secretary’s responsibility is to ensure that laws are fairly enforced for all. But when she got a speeding penalty, it seems she sought special treatment, a private course and asked civil servants to help.’
The Home Secretary replied: ‘As I have said earlier, in the summer of last year, I was speeding. I regret that. I paid the fine and I accepted the points. At no time did I seek to avoid the sanction.’
Mrs Braverman said she is ‘getting on with the job of delivering for the British people’.