London, May 21 (PTI) UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman is under pressure as it was claimed in a media report on Sunday that she attempted to dodge a driving fine after being caught speeding outside London when she was Attorney General of the country last year.
‘The Sunday Times’ reported that the Indian-origin Cabinet minister asked civil servants to help her avoid a speeding fine and points on her driving licence by arranging a private one-to-one driving awareness course.
In the UK, anyone caught speeding is handed a fine and penalty points on their licence unless they sign up to an awareness course held in group sessions or online.
A spokesperson for the Home Secretary said she “accepts that she was speeding last summer and regrets doing so”.
“She took the three points (on her licence) and paid the fine last year,” the spokesperson said.
However, the issue has been dominating headlines in the UK as Opposition parties demand an independent investigation to determine if Braverman broke the ministerial code and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s G7 news conference in Japan was also overshadowed by the issue.
“I don’t know the full details of what has happened nor have I spoken to the Home Secretary,” said Sunak, in response to a media inquiry.
“I think you can see first-hand what I have been doing over the last day or so but I understand that she’s expressed regret for speeding, accepted the penalty and paid the fine,” he said.
But Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper called it “shocking” that Braverman had reportedly tried to bend the normal process for speeding drivers.
“As Home Secretary, Suella Braverman is responsible for upholding the law, yet this report suggests she has tried to abuse her position to get round the normal penalties,” said Cooper of the newspaper report.
She called for an “urgent investigation”, starting with Prime Minister Sunak’s independent adviser on ministers’ interests, Laurie Magnus, assessing whether the Home Secretary’s behaviour breached the ministerial code. Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael has also called for Braverman to be “urgently investigated”.
‘The Sunday Times’ reported that instead of signing up for an in-person course with other motorists, or completing one online that would show her name and face to other participants, Braverman allegedly asked civil servants to arrange a private one-to-one course.
When the civil servants refused, she is said to have sought help from a political aide, who requested the private course organiser to provide a private session, or allow her to use an alias or turn her camera off. When the provider refused, Braverman opted to take the three points on her licence, the newspaper reported.
Sources close to the minister believe the case was settled by her taking the penalty points, which are wiped off over time unless additional points accrue for other road safety penalties. Accumulating 12 or more points on a licence could result in the driver losing their licence and being disqualified from driving over time.
“The Cabinet Office was made aware of the situation as requested by Mrs Braverman. She was not and is not disqualified from driving,” a source close to Braverman was quoted as saying.
“It would not be appropriate to comment on the existence or content of advice between government departments,” a UK Cabinet Office spokesperson said.