Connect with us

Published

on

Suella Braverman and Rishi Sunak have exchanged letters about the home secretary’s actions after she was fined for speeding last summer. 

The letters come after Ms Braverman faced accusations of breaking the ministerial code by involving civil servants in her efforts to avoid a group speeding awareness course.

In a three-page letter to the prime minister, Ms Braverman laid out her version of events, and Mr Sunak responded by saying “further investigation is not necessary”.

Read the full letters below.

From Suella Braverman to Rishi Sunak

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing to provide further information in relation to my receipt and handling of a speeding ticket, which has been the subject of recent media interest.

Around June 2022, while Attorney General, I was found to be speeding. I received notification that I could take a group speed awareness course or receive a fine and three points on my licence, which was clean at the time. I opted to take the course and booked a date in Autumn.

After arriving at the Home Office in September as Home Secretary, I informed officials in my Home Office Private Office (PO) about the course and asked whether it was appropriate given my new role. This reflected my lack of familiarity with protocol relating to my newly acquired official status as a ‘protected person’, which means I am required to have a close protection security team overseeing my movements, and with me always in public. This involves close protection having knowledge of and involvement in many areas of what would otherwise be considered my ‘private life’, not related to my work as a Minister or Member of Parliament.

In discussions with my Principal Private Secretary (PPS) I was advised that the Cabinet Office’s Propriety and Ethics Team (PET) would be the best source of advice on whether it was appropriate to seek to do the course in a way that protected my privacy, security, and was least disruptive to the course participants and provider. I readily agreed to this suggestion. Consequently, on 28 September 2022 my PPS discussed this with the Permanent Secretary’s Office. The Permanent Secretary’s Office, at the request of the Permanent Secretary, then asked PET for guidance (noting that their own initial view was that this was not a matter for civil servant involvement) and asked if they were aware of any precedents and for any advice. PET advised it was not an appropriate matter for civil servants to take forward. My PPS also rightly pointed out that I needed to be mindful to ensure that I did not ask a company to change their rules due to my position, which neither I, nor to the best of my knowledge anyone acting on my behalf, ever sought to do. My PPS confirmed that I could continue discussing the matter with Special Advisers, and asked them to pick up with me. I made no further requests of officials.

I therefore later engaged with Special Advisers about how we would enable my participation in a way that would maintain my security and privacy. This was to determine whether there were other options possible within the overall framework and rules of the provider.

My preference at this point, following consultation with my Special Advisers, was to attend a group course in person rather than online due to privacy concerns. Participation in a speed awareness course is supposed to be private, and Special Advisers raised concerns about the risk of me being covertly recorded while participating online, and the political ramifications of this. PO and the Permanent Secretary’s officials also had previously advised that participating online risked generating media interest.

However, Special Advisers raised concerns about the difficulties of ensuring the appropriate security arrangements for an in-person course. Their concerns included that my protective Security team might need to join me in the room or be unable to undertake appropriate vetting of other course participants owing to third party privacy concerns.

Special Advisers then contacted the course provider to better understand the range of appropriate options that might be available – and consistent with the course provider’s rules, policies and practices. Based on this further information, I concluded that none of these could satisfactorily address the aforementioned security, privacy and political concerns. I therefore opted to take the points and pay the fine, which I did in November.

I accept that I was speeding and regret doing so. 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. My interactions with officials intended to provide appropriate clarification of the options available to me in my role as Home Secretary. Whenever I was informed that a possible option was not available, I accepted that. At no point did I instruct officials to behave contrary to the advice that was provided.

I considered the involvement of my Special Advisers appropriate, given the logistical, security, privacy, media, and therefore political considerations involved. I regret that my attempt to find a way to participate in the course in a manner that would have satisfied these concerns has enabled some to construe a potential conflict of interest. With hindsight, I acknowledge that the better course of action would have been to take the points and fine upfront.

The Ministerial Code sets out that Ministers must provide a list of all interests which might be thought to give rise to a conflict. It does not define what should be included, but it does specify the different types of interests. These are all framed around the responsibility for avoiding a conflict of interest between Ministers’ public duties and their private interests, and tend to relate to ongoing circumstances or relationships. Recognising the importance of integrity and transparency, I approach my declarations with great care and consideration.

The purpose of the form is to declare anything which might interfere, or be perceived to interfere, with a Minister’s integrity when making decisions in the public interest. I did not consider that a speeding infringement or attending a speed awareness course, needed to be disclosed. It is not an ongoing situation with the potential to influence my decisions. In general, minor driving offences tend to be excluded from official forms. For example, barristers are not required to inform the regulator of minor speeding infractions; similarly, these are excluded if you are asked about any criminal history when you apply for a visa to the UK, or in the annual security questions asked of civil servants in the Home Office with heightened security clearance. I note that PET has, since November 2022, introduced references to fixed penalty notices in their introductory discussions with new ministers, recognising that the position was unclear given these are not currently explicitly covered by Ministerial interest forms. I am grateful for this clarity, and in the future would declare any similar speeding course or fine.

As I outlined, I informed my officials of the speeding and driving course, and the Permanent Secretary’s office was involved in the conversations as described above, determining whether it was appropriate for civil servants to engage with the security and logistics of me attending this course. It was never suggested by anyone in my PO or the Permanent Secretary’s Office that I needed to disclose the situation on an updated form. I also understand that, despite being aware of events at the time, at no point did the Permanent Secretary or Cabinet Office suggest that my actions resulted in a conflict of interest or merited any investigation.

I am deeply committed to all the Nolan Principles of Public Life, including honesty, integrity and openness, and I regret that these events have led some to question my commitment. I have at all times been truthful and transparent, and taken decisions guided by what I believed was right and appropriate given my office, not by any personal motivation. Another principle, of course, is leadership: Ministers must hold themselves – and be seen to hold themselves – to the highest standards. I have always strived, and will continue to strive, to do this.

As I say, in hindsight, or if faced with a similar situation again, I would have chosen a different course of action. I sought to explore whether bespoke arrangements were possible, given my personal circumstances as a security-protected Minister. I recognise how some people have construed this as me seeking to avoid sanction – at no point was that the intention or outcome. Nonetheless, given the fundamental importance of integrity in public life, I deeply regret that my actions may have given rise to that perception, and I apologise for the distraction this has caused.

I hope this clearly sets out my involvement in this matter and provides you with all relevant information. Should you require any further information, I will of course be happy to provide it.

Yours sincerely,

Suella Braverman

From Rishi Sunak to Suella Braverman

Dear Home Secretary,

Thank you for your letter and for your time discussing these matters with me.

Integrity, professionalism and accountability are core values of this Government and it is right and proper that where issues are raised these are looked at professionally to ensure the appropriate course of action is taken.

I have consulted with my Independent Adviser. He has advised that on this occasion further investigation is not necessary and I have accepted that advice. On the basis of your letter and our discussion, my decision is that these matters do not amount to a breach of the Ministerial Code.

As you have recognised, a better course of action could have been taken to avoid giving rise to the perception of impropriety.

Nevertheless, I am reassured you take these matters seriously. You have provided a thorough account, apologised and expressed regret.

It is vital that all those in Government maintain the high standards the public rightly expects. I know you share this view, just as we are committed to delivering on the issues that matter to the British people – from making our streets safer and reducing net migration to stopping the boats.

Yours ever,

Rishi Sunak

Continue Reading

World

Left-wing Labour MP hits out after losing selection battle – as party leadership accused of ‘purging socialists’

Published

on

By

Left-wing Labour MP hits out after losing selection battle - as party leadership accused of 'purging socialists'

A left-leaning Labour MP claimed she faced “unacceptable obstacles” after losing a selection battle for a new seat in Wales.

Beth Winter said she would be “taking advice and soundings” on her next steps after Gerald Jones, a Labour frontbencher, was announced as the candidate for Merthyr Tydfil and Upper Cynon.

Proposed boundary changes in Wales mean the two MPs’ constituencies would effectively be merged into one – setting up the two-way contest between them.

Politics Live: Labour asks ‘where is missing £21bn’

The controversy comes amid a row over the decision to block left-wing Labour mayor Jamie Driscoll from running for another role in the North East.

Momentum, the grassroots left-wing organisation that supports Labour, accused the party’s leadership of “taking a sledgehammer to the democratic rights of local Labour members in order to purge socialists and instal [Keir Starmer] loyalists”.

Mr Driscoll said he had not ruled out taking legal action against the party, with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and his counterpart in the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, claiming the move did not seem “democratic, transparent and fair”.

More on Labour

In a statement, Ms Winter said she was “disappointed by this very close result and the unjust manner in which it came about, which leaves major questions outstanding”.

She said: “In this contest, I sought reselection as Labour’s candidate on a platform of solidarity with striking rail workers, nurses and teaching staff, all of who I have been proud to stand with on the picket line.

“I have campaigned for properly funded public services paid for by taxing the rich, an extension of workers’ rights including a £15 per hour living wage, the renationalisation of our public services and a ‘green new deal’ to deliver a jobs-led economic recovery.

Beth Winter
Image:
Beth Winter (centre right) said she ‘campaigned for properly funded public services’

“However, unacceptable obstacles were placed in the way of this grassroots campaign, undermining the democratic process.”

Describing the “obstacles” she faced, Ms Winter claimed the “online only process” was “bulldozed through” in a matter of weeks without any face-to-face hustings.

She added: “This was not a fair contest, and I will be taking advice and soundings in the days ahead about my next steps.”

Ms Winter has been MP for Cynon Valley since 2019 and is a member of the Socialist Campaign Group parliamentary caucus.

She had previously expressed concern that too much of the contest was online.

Commenting on the case, veteran left-wing MP John McDonell said there were questions to be answered and called the result a “huge setback for our movement”.

He tweeted: “Beth Winter is a principled, incredibly hard working, socialist MP, so this is a huge setback for our movement. In this dignified statement, she shows her commitment to her constituents & the cause of Labour. Questions need to be asked about forcing thru of a solely online process.”

Mr Jones has represented Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney since 2015 and serves as shadow Wales minister.

He thanked Ms Winter for a “comradely campaign” and said he was “incredibly grateful that Labour members have chosen me to be the candidate for Merthyr Tydfil & Upper Cynon”.

“Britain is crying out for a UK Labour Government and I’ll work flat out to make Keir Starmer our next prime minister,” he said.

Continue Reading

World

Putin’s dam attack is a dangerous escalation that takes the war in an even more perilous direction

Published

on

By

Putin's dam attack is a dangerous escalation that takes the war in an even more perilous direction

The breach of the Nova Kakhovka dam is most worrying for what it says about the mind of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his generals – and their capacity for dangerous escalation.

It takes the war in an even more perilous direction.

The military impact is likely to be temporary. Armies blow dams or use them to unleash floodwaters for tactical advantage.

The Soviets and the Germans both did it in the Second World War.

But the gains generally do not hold. Water drains away, the ground dries out.

Warning of ‘grave consequences’ after dam blast – live updates

Ben Barry, a land war senior fellow at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, said: “It could set back any assault river crossing for a couple of weeks.

“Difficult to tell for how long. But only once the water subsides and the ground dries out will Ukraine have the same chance of a river crossing as it did before the flood.”

And he believes an attack across the swollen Dnipro is not out of the question even now.

“It’s not impossible to do an assault river crossing across a river that’s in full flood. It’s just more difficult,” he said.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Kherson main square ‘awash with water’

The Russians have blamed the Ukrainians for the attack, but most analysts have dismissed that as unlikely to impossible.

The Russians have a proven track record for accusing the other side of doing what they have themselves done. And the Russians have most to gain. Up to a point.

Read more:
Satellite images reveal scale of dam damage
Five environmental impacts of dam collapse
‘42,000 people at risk’ from dam flooding

The breach benefits the Russians by reducing the length of the frontline it has to defend and allowing it to focus attention in the east, but not indefinitely.

And it has blowback for the Russians too, flooding some of the defensive positions they have dug in on the southern bank since retreating there last August.

So temporary gain, some self-harm and all the opprobrium that comes with carrying out yet another war crime.

Where is the margin in that for Vladimir Putin? It looks rash and premature. A disproportionate and irrational act.

But that may be the point.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Ukraine dam attack explained

Russian president ‘excels in scare tactics’

In war, it can pay to do the crazy thing, to look unhinged and keep your enemy guessing at your next act of madness.

Putin excels in scare tactics and knows the dam blast makes him look more dangerous.

If Russia was irresponsible enough to blow the dam and unleash such destruction for limited advantage, what will it do next, planners in Kyiv and the West will be asking.

The fear now is for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The dam breach endangers the supply of water to its cooling systems. Could Russia now sabotage the plant to change the course of the war?

The destruction of the dam undoubtedly changes the risk calculus in handling Russia, but correctly calibrating it will need cool heads so it is not overdone.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Ukraine war: Major dam attack

Putin has, after all, indulged in nuclear sabre-rattling for much of this war.

It has weighed on the minds of Ukraine’s allies and made them more timid in arming Kyiv.

But so far analysts say his nuclear bluster is just that.

FILE PHOTO: A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict outside Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian-controlled Ukraine, March 29, 2023. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko//File Photo
Image:
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Pic: File

The nuclear option

There is no sign of Putin starting the lengthy process of bringing tactical warheads out of storage and deploying them.

And any disaster at Zaporizhzhia threatens Russia most.

Click to subscribe to Ukraine War Diaries wherever you get your podcasts

The prevailing winds would be most likely to carry the fallout east across the Russian border.

The Russians have shown stunning disregard for the welfare of their own soldiers but a radioactive cloud over their defensive positions and logistics lines would be challenging to say the least.

What we can say for sure is this war has swung again in a more unpredictable direction and the longer it goes on, the more such lurches are likely to happen.

Continue Reading

World

Elderly Ukrainians weep after escaping floodwaters and Russian fire

Published

on

By

Elderly Ukrainians weep after escaping floodwaters and Russian fire

There was a steady stream of boat landings throughout the day in Kherson city in southern Ukraine as the rescue efforts were ramped up to reach those stranded by floodwaters.

The water levels rose about 11 feet in about 24 hours according to emergency services, with some areas reaching a depth of 17 feet.

It meant those who had stayed in their homes overnight awoke to find themselves stranded the day after the destruction of the enormous Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian president said the priority was evacuating those trapped in their homes and providing fresh drinking water to an area where they predict there are going to be serious supply challenges in the very near future.

We watched as a flotilla of rescue boats serviced by police, troops and eager volunteers searched the newly flooded streets of Kherson.

Amphibious vehicles like the Ukrainian-made Sherp were brought in with its huge, specialised inflatable wheels to try to help in the rescue attempts.

It turned out to be of less use than small rubber dinghies which have been forced to manoeuvre their way through broken electrical lines, submerged trees and trailing branches to try to reach trapped residents.

More from World

“Turn around, it’ll be easier,” volunteer Mykola urged one of the pensioners he was rescuing from the third floor of an apartment block.

Putin reacts to dam collapse – follow Ukraine war live updates

A rescue effort is under way in Kherson
Image:
A rescue effort is under way in Kherson

The two floors downstairs are now utterly submerged. “I can’t go inside my home at all,” one resident shouted to our boat, “The water is way over our heads in there now”.

Mykola tells us there are still a lot of people stranded after believing the waters wouldn’t rise so high.

The predictions are the levels are likely to go up a few inches more before they hope they will start to recede – but it could take a week for them to go down entirely.

Until then it is going to be difficult to assess the long-term impact of this catastrophic dam burst – which the Russian authorities are continuing to deny responsibility for.

Stranded elderly people who lived alone have had to be rescued
Image:
Stranded elderly people who lived alone have had to be rescued

But Vladimir Putin’s enemies are in no mood to listen to his protestations with the United Nations, America and European countries all lining up to blame him.

The US admitted it did not have any firm evidence but Western officials seem to be basing their assumptions on the fact the dam has been largely under the control of Russian forces since the beginning of the war.

Read more:
Analysis: Putin’s dam attack is a dangerous escalation
Five environmental impacts of Ukraine dam collapse
Before-and-after images of devastation after dam destroyed

Putin loyalists, however, are still blaming the Ukrainians as the Russian leader announced he too would be launching a criminal investigation to discover exactly what happened.

There are several witnesses saying that the Russians have been continuing to attack those trying to flee the territory they control on the other side of the flooded Dnipro River.

Two boats carrying old people and family members landed in Kherson saying they’d fled Russian troops from the east bank. They went on to say the Russians had also looted their summer homes and been bombing the beaches.

Olga says Russian forces attacked as she fled to Kherson
Image:
Olga says Russian forces attacked as she fled to Kherson

Olga wept with relief as she told us: “The current was so powerful, we barely made it.”

She was hugged and consoled by her friends as they all sat round the few bags of possessions they’d managed to take with them.

“When we were in Dachi, all our boats had been sunk and the Russians were looting our summer houses and taking our boat engines. They were taking everything. Our guys just managed to save our two boats.”

She’s overwhelmed with emotion as reaching dry land. But the challenges in this area are likely to mount in the coming days and weeks when the full scale of the disaster is finally known.

Continue Reading

Trending