UK interior minister denies impropriety over speeding ticket
UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman on Monday denied any impropriety over the handling of a speeding ticket that has again put her at the centre of controversy about alleged rule-breaking.
Rishi Sunak promised to restore integrity to government when he became prime minister last year, after the turbulent premierships of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.
But Braverman -- a Brexit hardliner criticised for her outspoken rhetoric on immigration -- is now facing calls for a potentially career-ending ethics inquiry.
The interior minister in charge of law enforcement asked her officials to set up a one-to-one driving awareness course, instead of taking penalty points on her licence, according to newspaper reports Sunday.
That has led to opposition claims that she may have breached the ministerial code of conduct by requesting non-political civil servants to help deal with a private matter.
Braverman, who resigned under Truss for using her personal email to send an official document to a colleague, downplayed the row in comments to media and to parliament.
"Last summer, I was speeding. I regret that," she told the House of Commons, referring back to when she was attorney general before becoming home secretary under Truss in September.
"I paid the fine and I accepted the points, and at no point did I seek to evade the sanction," Braverman insisted.
But she thrice refused to answer when pressed by opposition parties about what she had directed civil servants to do on her behalf.
"Time and again she tries to think that she's above the normal rules," senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper charged, while accusing Sunak of being "weak".
The prime minister was asked about the newspaper reports while at the G7 leaders' summit in Japan and said he did not know the "full details" of the case.
Downing Street later said that "of course" he had full confidence in Braverman.
But the Mirror newspaper said on Monday that one of its reporters had asked her special media adviser six weeks ago about the speeding offence and was told it was "nonsense".
After Sunak returned from Japan in the early hours, Braverman was seen entering 10 Downing Street as the prime minister's spokesman confirmed that he had already consulted with his ethics adviser about the case.
"The prime minister is availing himself of all the information," the spokesman said, adding: "The prime minister believes in proper processes."
Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union which represents senior officials, said: "Civil servants are publicly funded... They're not there to support the personal interests of a minister.
"They don't do their shopping, they don't look after their children and they don't sort out their speeding fine."