Suella Braverman email: four questions left unanswered

Statement to home affairs select committee appears to contradict letter to then PM Liz Truss

When Suella Braverman resigned as home secretary just under two weeks ago for breaching the ministerial code, she made a series of claims to Liz Truss, the then prime minister, about her conduct.

A statement released on Monday to the home affairs select committee (HASC) appears to contradict some of those claims, leaving outstanding unanswered questions which could yet have a bearing on her political survival.

Did she mislead the public by claiming to have reported her mistake ‘rapidly’?

Last week, Braverman said that as soon as she realised the mistake she had made in sending a government document to a colleague, she reported it.

“As soon as l realised my mistake, I rapidly reported this on official channels, and informed the cabinet secretary,” she wrote.

Her new account casts doubt on the claim that she reported the mistake “rapidly”. Braverman said that she sent the email at 7.25am and realised at 10am that it had gone to the wrong person in error after reading their reply.

She says her first response was to reply to that person at 10.02am asking them to ignore the message and delete it – she did not inform anyone about the leak at that point.

She says she then attended a Home Office meeting for about an hour, and then went to the Commons to meet two constituents. At 11.50am in the Commons she met the then chief whip, Wendy Morton, who already knew about the mistake, and the Tory MP Andrew Percy, who said a member of his staff had received the email in error.

Percy told Morton about the Braverman email because he thought that potentially this was a serious breach of security. Braverman says at this point she decided not to attend PMQs as planned and to instead return to her office to report the error.

Did she mislead the public by claiming she resigned because she had sent the leaked document to an MP?

The original letter implies that she resigned because she passed a draft text of a written ministerial statement to Sir John Hayes, a Tory MP who is a close political ally of Braverman.

“Earlier today, l sent an official document from my personal email to a trusted parliamentary colleague as part of policy engagement, and with the aim of garnering support for government policy on migration.”

As Braverman admitted on Monday, she was only found out because of a second mistake; she copied in the wrong person, with the result the email went to another MP, not Hayes’s secretary.

Was the information within the briefing market-sensitive?

Braverman says in her letter the document that she passed on to Hayes “did not contain any market-sensitive data as all the data contained in the document was already in the public domain”.

At a lobby briefing on Monday the prime minister’s spokesperson backed the Braverman version. He said his understanding was that the document “wasn’t in any way market-sensitive”.

But on the day she was sacked as home secretary, lobby journalists were briefed by No 10 that she had leaked market-sensitive information.

Sources who have seen the document insist it did contain market-sensitive information because it related to visa quotas in particular industries which could affect share prices of specific companies in specific markets.

Has she discussed with Rishi Sunak all six occasions when she forwarded information from her official email address to her personal email address?

Monday’s letter says that on six occasions between 15 September and 16 October she sent documents from her government email account to her personal email account, each of which is alleged to be a breach of the ministerial code. The seventh occasion, on 19 October, was the incident that led to her resignation.

An appendix to her HASC letter says when she breached the rules on these six occasions but gives varying detail about the actual material within the emails.

One was a briefing on “recent protest activity and public disorder”; another says it was for a “virtual meeting that was subsequently cancelled”.

The Labour party has said it remains unclear whether she discussed any or all of the six breaches with Sunak and if not, why not?


Rajeev Syal Home affairs editor

The GuardianTramp

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