Outcry over Suella Braverman’s return as home secretary

Opposition MPs and former sleaze watchdog criticise move days after she resigned over security breach

Suella Braverman’s return as home secretary, just days after being forced to resign from the same post over a serious security breach, has sparked an outcry from opposition MPs and a former sleaze watchdog.

The MP for Fareham stepped down six days ago from Liz Truss’s administration after admitting to breaking the ministerial code by sending an official document deemed “sensitive” from her personal email.

Her reappointment on Tuesday came hours after Rishi Sunak pledged to lead the Conservative party with “integrity, professionalism and accountability” on the steps of No 10.

A former sleaze watchdog questioned whether her reappointment was appropriate, particularly because Braverman’s rule breach has not been examined by an ethics adviser.

Alistair Graham, the former chair of the committee on standards in public life, said: “Normally the prime minister would have consulted a ministerial adviser for advice. A breach of the ministerial code is seen as a serious matter and would make any minister an inappropriate appointment to one of the four most senior positions in government.”

The government is yet to reappoint an independent adviser on ministerial ethics since Christopher Geidt’s resignation in June during the Partygate scandal.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said Sunak was already putting party before country only hours into his premiership.

“He has just appointed Suella Braverman to be home secretary again a week after she resigned for breaches of the ministerial code, security lapses, sending sensitive government information through unauthorised personal channels, and following weeks of nonstop public disagreements with other cabinet ministers,” she said.

She added: “Our national security and public safety are too important for this kind of chaos.”

Braverman admitted to a “technical breach” of the ministerial code after clashing with Truss and the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, last week over their plans to relax immigration rules.

Downing Street had shared immigration proposals with the home secretary, which she then attempted to email to John Hayes, a fellow member of the Common Sense Group of Tory MPs.

However, she also accidentally sent it to a staff member of another Tory MP who shares Hayes’s surname.

Government sources said the draft written statement was deemed highly sensitive because it related to immigration rules, which could have major implications for market-sensitive growth forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility.

They added that Braverman’s email had constituted two contraventions of the ministerial code: by sharing a statement ahead of time and by sending it from a personal account.

Braverman criticised Truss in her resignation letter. “I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility; I resign,” she said pointedly, adding she had “serious concerns” about Truss’s commitment to the 2019 manifesto.

Braverman’s return to government also raises questions about Sunak’s plans for immigration and whether a deal has been struck to keep the MP, a key figure in the Tories’ European Research Group and the Common Sense Group, onboard with Sunak’s new administration.

Braverman has advocated keeping net migration to “tens of thousands” and wishes to stick to the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto pledge of reducing overall migration. Sunak is under pressure from business to ease migration rules to fill vacancies and increase growth.

Braverman’s friends have said she was appalled that Truss and Hunt wanted her to announce a liberalisation of immigration to make it easier for the OBR to say the government would hit its growth targets – a key plank in Hunt’s strategy to restore market confidence.

The Home Office under Braverman is expected to continue to emphasise the Rwanda plan as a way of dealing with the rising number of people coming to the UK by dangerous small boat journeys across the Channel.

During the Conservative party leadership campaign over the summer, Sunak announced plans for an annual cap on the number of refugees the UK accepts and said he would do “whatever it takes” to ensure the Rwanda scheme worked.


Rajeev Syal Home affairs editor

The GuardianTramp

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