Rishi Sunak is facing fresh questions over his decision to reappoint Suella Braverman as home secretary after a former Conservative party chair said she was responsible for “multiple breaches of the ministerial code”, but the current chair said she deserved “redemption”.
Jake Berry, the former party chair, said the situation was “really serious” given that Braverman had sent sensitive documents related to “cybersecurity” on a personal email account to a backbench colleague and tried to copy in his wife.
But Nadhim Zahawi, who replaced Berry on Tuesday, said Braverman had quickly realised her mistake.
Braverman also came under fire after the Daily Mail reported she was part of a leak inquiry that raised “concern” in MI5 when she was attorney general.
Labour called for an “urgent investigation” into the “extremely serious allegations” and told Sunak to confirm whether he knew about them.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said: “Ignoring warnings about security risks when appointing a home secretary is highly irresponsible and dangerous. We need answers now.”
The Tory MP Mark Pritchard, a former member of parliament’s intelligence and security committee, said MI5 needed confidence in the home secretary and any breakdown in that relationship was bad for the government and the security services. “It needs to be sorted ASAP,” he said.
Sunak dismissed concerns about the appointment at the prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, when he was accused by the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, of hatching a “grubby deal” to give Braverman her job back in exchange for supporting his Tory leadership campaign.
Some MPs have privately raised doubts about Braverman’s reappointment, believing it undermines Sunak’s promise to restore integrity and professionalism to the government. Berry told Talk TV on Wednesday night that Braverman had committed “multiple breaches of the ministerial code” by passing on a private government document.
“It was sent from a private email address to another MP,” he told the Piers Morgan Uncensored show. “She then sought to copy in that individual’s wife and accidentally sent it to a staffer in parliament. To me, that seems a really serious breach, especially when it was documents relating to cybersecurity, as I believe. That seems a really serious breach.
“The cabinet secretary had his say at the time. I doubt he changed his mind in the last six days but that is a matter for the new prime minister.”
Labour is demanding that the government publish the advice received from the cabinet secretary, Simon Case, about the decision to reappoint Braverman.
David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, said Sunak “should share that advice with the general public at large”, adding that a string of questions remained about why Braverman was allowed back into government after less than a week, and exactly which breaches of the ministerial code occurred.
Two sections of the code were thought to have been broken. The first was 2.14, which is about “security of government business” and says ministers “have an important role to play in maintaining the security of government business”.
The second was 2.3, and sums up the mantel of collective responsibility, stating: “The internal process through which a decision has been made, or the level of committee by which it was taken, should not be disclosed.”
The new party chair said: “She fell on her sword. She didn’t try and ride it out and try to hang on to her job. She said: ‘No, I’ve made a mistake, I’m not going to shy away from it, I’m going to resign immediately.’ She did that.
“Politics now moves at breakneck speed,” Zahawi told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme presenter Amol Rajan.
“You’ve been around in politics for long enough to know that it used to take months and years for governments to change. Now it’s happening in hours and days, as I discovered this weekend.
“This prime minister looked at the detail of this case and he believes in second chances and he’s giving Suella Braverman that second chance. I believe in redemption, as I’m sure many of your listeners would do as well.”
Braverman herself has not commented on the issue since her resignation last week, in which she admitted only to a “technical breach” of the ministerial code. She said the document was a draft written statement on immigration and “much of it had already been briefed to MPs”.
Source: The Guardian