Suella Braverman has admitted using her personal email for official business six times so she could read the documents while taking work video calls.
The home secretary was reappointed to the position by Rishi Sunak after quitting under Liz Truss because she breached security rules by sending a draft written ministerial statement (WMS) to the Conservative backbencher John Hayes and also accidentally to someone on the staff of the Tory MP Andrew Percy, breaching the ministerial code.
The draft statement consisted of “high-level proposals for liberalising our migration rules”, including “increasing the number of low-skilled foreign workers, as well as general plans for controlling illegal migration”.
After avoiding questions from MPs in the Commons last week, Braverman has broken her silence with a letter to the home affairs committee chair, Diana Johnson, apologising for her “errors of judgment”.
She insists the WMS was not “classified as secret or top secret”, and none of the six emails sent between 6 September and 10 October “concerned national security, intelligence agency or cybersecurity matters and did not pose any risk to national security”.
But Braverman’s letter reveals she did not confess what had happened with the WMS to officials “as soon as I realised my mistake”, as she had set out in her resignation letter to Truss. Instead, Braverman admits she was alerted to the error “before or around” 10am when a parliamentary staffer for Percy told her it was “sent to me in error” and she had forwarded on all relevant emails to her private secretary only at 12.56pm and 12.57pm, before she met the cabinet secretary, Simon Case, at around 2pm.
Much of the document had already been briefed to MPs, including Hayes, “at the request” of Truss, although Braverman acknowledged that “some sentences” had not been fully agreed by all departments.
She said: “I want the home affairs select committee to be reassured on the very important point about the nature of the document that I shared by mistake.
“The draft WMS did not contain any information relating to national security, the intelligence agencies, cybersecurity or law enforcement. It did not contain details of any particular case work. It did not contain any market-sensitive data as all the data contained in the document was already in the public domain. It was not classified as secret or top secret.”
The Liberal Democrat chief whip, Wendy Chamberlain, said the home secretary “has admitted breaking the rules on an industrial scale” and “must resign now”.
“Unless Suella Braverman resigns for the second time, the Conservatives will be putting their own party ahead of this country’s security.”
Johnson has told Times Radio that Braverman must come to the Commons to explain her position.
“I think she needs to come today to the House of Commons. I don’t think she needs to be summoned,” she said. “She needs to decide she’s coming herself and she’s going to make a statement and deal with all of these issues and questions that have been rising up over the last few weeks since she was reappointed.
“She’s got to deal with this because until this is dealt with she can’t get on and do the job of home secretary.”
Braverman said she apologised to Rishi Sunak when he reappointed her as home secretary, and repeated her apology in her letter to Johnson.
But the PM has distanced himself from her claims, as No 10 says the PM did not discuss the circumstances relating to her resignation when he reappointed her, they only discussed getting her old job back.
Questioned by the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, on whether it was right to bring Braverman back into the cabinet, Sunak told MPs at his first prime minister’s questions that she had “raised the matter” and accepted her mistake.
She said there was nothing market-sensitive in the draft WMS she sent from her private email address to Hayes. She said Truss had “specifically” asked her to engage with parliamentary colleagues to discuss the content of the planned written statement.
Asked whether Sunak believed that the letter to the Commons home affairs select committee would “draw a line” under the controversy surrounding the home secretary, Sunak’s official spokesperson said: “I think the prime minister feels this sets out a detailed account of what happened and responds to some of the interest in this, and that the home secretary is providing a full account.”
Downing Street said Sunak had full confidence in the home secretary.