Rishi Sunak’s decision to reappoint Suella Braverman six days after she was forced to resign for a security breach is facing fresh questions after a former chairman of the Conservative party claimed the home secretary was responsible for “multiple breaches of the ministerial code”.
Jake Berry, who sat in the cabinet alongside Braverman at the heart of Liz Truss’s government, said she was responsible for a “really serious breach” after sending confidential information to a private address, sending it to an MP, attempting to send it to the MP’s wife and then accidentally sending it to a member of parliamentary staff.
He also indicated that the UK’s most senior civil servant, Simon Case, had been consulted and ruled that it had broken the rules.
Sunak told MPs on Wednesday that Braverman had made an “error of judgment” and had recognised her mistake, adding: “That’s why I was delighted to welcome her back into a united cabinet that brings experience and stability to the heart of government.”
Asked during prime minister’s questions if officials had raised concerns about the appointment– given Case was said to have been furious – Sunak simply said he had already “addressed the issue”.
Speaking to Piers Morgan Uncensored on Wednesday night, Berry said there had been “multiple breaches of the ministerial code” after Braverman had sent the document to her confidante and fellow MP Sir John Hayes.
“It was sent from a private email address to another member of parliament,” he told TalkTV’s Kate McCann. “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 cyber security, 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.”
The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said Berry’s intervention was “extraordinary” and “very serious”, and highlighted Berry’s comments about “cybersecurity breaches”.
Tweeting at the prime minister, she wrote: “What security warnings did you ignore when you reappointed home secretary?”
Braverman’s short time at the Home Office was marked by a hardline approach to a multitude of issues, including proposing to ban people entering the UK via small boats from claiming asylum.
It emerged on Wednesday that more than 38,000 people have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel in more than 900 boats in 2022 to date, compared with 28,526 last year.
The clandestine Channel threat commander, Dan O’Mahoney, told the Commons home affairs committee during the hearing that in 2021 the interception rate for French police stopping people trying to cross the Channel was 50%, but this year it has dropped to 42.5%.
He accepted this was a lower percentage but stressed it was a “much, much bigger number”, telling how French authorities had stopped 28,000 migrants crossing the Channel and intercepted and destroyed 1,072 boats so far this year.
The disclosure comes after Labour and the Liberal Democrats called for a Cabinet Office inquiry into national security concerns after Braverman was reinstated. No 10 refused to deny officials advised against reappointing her to a great office of state.
Cooper wrote to Case demanding an investigation , a request echoed by the Lib Dems’ home affairs spokesperson, Alistair Carmichael.
The head of the FDA senior civil servants’ union, Dave Penman, told the Guardian the reappointment was a clear example of “double standards” given that his members would face severe punishments for similar behaviour.
“If a civil servant had acted in the way that Suella Braverman was alleged to, using private email accounts to send confidential government business to personal contacts, they would rightly be expected to face the harshest of penalties and lose their security clearance.
“Standards matter, and the clear signal from her appointment is that ministers can act with impunity if it suits the prime minister.”
The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, replied during PMQs that a deal had been struck to shore up support from hard-right MPs who support Braverman. “He’s so weak, he’s done a grubby deal trading national security because he was scared to lose another leadership election,” Starmer said.
Braverman left the chamber just minutes before a debate on her conduct after Labour was granted an urgent question.
Cooper said there were many unanswered questions regarding Braverman’s conduct. “Is this the only time she has done this or has she shared other documents? Or other sensitive information?
“What security clearance has the home secretary been given? Does she still have access to the most sensitive documents and information? Did the cabinet secretary warn against her reappointment?”
Replying for the government, the paymaster general, Jeremy Quin, was unable to say whether the home secretary had been given full security clearance. He did, however, say that the government would appoint a new independent ethics adviser.