Politics latest: Sunak 'has confidence' in Suella Braverman over speeding scandal as Starmer makes NHS pledge
Follow the latest updates on Suella Braverman, Labour's NHS announcement and more from NationalWorld's politics team on the live blog below.
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Rishi Sunak is under pressure to order an investigation into whether Suella Braverman breached the ministerial code by asking civil servants to arrange a private speed awareness course.
The Prime Minister is expected to speak to the Home Secretary today after it was revealed she requested for help from government officials to arrange a one-to-one course instead of taking penalty points, to avoid being identified by members of the public. Sunak will also seek advice from his adviser on ministers’ interests, Sir Laurie Magnus, about how to proceed. Speaking publicly for the first time, Braverman denied "anything untoward" however refused to say whether she asked civil servants to intervene.
Sir Keir Starmer has also announced a new Labour policy on the NHS. At an event in Braintree, Essex, Starmer pledged to reduce deaths from heart disease, strokes and suicide in England if he wins the next general election. MPs also voted to reject multiple amendments to the Minimum Service Levels bill.
Rishi Sunak to meet ethics adviser today over Braverman speeding
Rishi Sunak will speak to his ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus today (May 22) about whether an inquiry should be launched into reports that Home Secretary Suella Braverman asked Home Office civil servants for special treatment after she was caught speeding.
Labour leader Keir Starmer has called on the Prime Minister to launch an investigation and said Braverman should resign if she is found to have breached the ministerial code.
What did Suella Braverman do?
Suella Braverman, who is in charge of law enforcement in the UK, was first issued a speeding notice by police outside of London when she was the Attorney General in the summer of 2022. After being given the penalty, the current home secretary allegedly asked Home Office civil servant workers for special treatment.
The proposed arrangement was reported to involve a one-on-one driving course as Braverman did not want to attend one in-person or online. She did not want her identity to be known by other motorists.
Civil servants refused the request and were left concerned by the proposal, which led them to report the incident to the Cabinet Office. Continuing her quest to dodge the speeding fine, it is understood that Suella Braverman decided to go through a political aide in an attempt to complete the course anonymously.
If she was to be granted her request to complete a course, this would mean that the home secretary would avoid not only points on her licence but a speeding fine. The Sunday Times - which initially broke the story - has confirmed that all the requests were denied.
Former permanent secretary says Braverman appears to have breached ministerial code
Former senior civil servant Philip Rycroft - who was a permanent secretary in the Brexit department - has said: “This, on the face of it, I think, is a breach of the ministerial code.”
The former permanent secretary at the Brexit department told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour programme: “The code is very clear. Ministers must ensure that no conflict arises or appears to arise between their public duties and their private interests."
Starmer outlines Labour’s plans for the NHS
Sir Keir Starmer has told a press conference in Braintree that Labour will “save” the NHS - warning that it will not last another five years under a Conservative Party government.
The party leader said the NHS is “not sustainable unless we make serious, deep, long-term changes”, and outlined three big “shifts” he hopes to implement:
- Moving care away from hospitals and into the community
- Putting prevention first - proactive rather than reactive treatment
- Prioritising technology and shifting from an analogue to digital NHS
Starmer also spoke about specific health missions he is looking to push ahead with. He pledged to get deaths by heart attacks and strokes down by a quarter within a decade.
He also said Labour would ensure 75% of all cancer is diagnosed at stage one or two, warning that by the time cancer gets to stage three or four, survival rates are only at 26%.
Finally, the Holborn and St Pancras MP promised to reverse the number of deaths by suicide - remarking that the fact that suicide is the biggest killer of young lives is a statistic that “should haunt us”.
Starmer questioned over how Labour NHS plan will be funded
Taking questions from journalists after his speech, Sir Keir Starmer is asked how he will fund his plan for the NHS.
The MP argued that Labour has always said how it will fund proposed measures that would cost more, such as by pledging to pay for training more doctors and nurses by abolishing non-dom status. But he doesn’t give any information on his “three shifts” plan - or on how he will fund reducing death by suicide, heart disease, and stroke.
When pressed further, Starmer argued that technology will reduce costs. He also added that he “understands” why journalists are asking about funding, but insisted that “it is not all about money”.
Tom Hourigan's thoughts on Labour's NHS plan
NationalWorld's politics editor Tom Hourigan has been in Essex, listening to Sir Keir Starmer's speech on the NHS. He's given a rapid reaction to the Labour leader's announcement:
He had plenty to say on a whole variety of issues that affect most of us, from the 8am scramble for GP appointments, cutting cancer waiting times and lowering the number of people who end up in hospital with heart attacks. Starmer also spoke of the need to make better use of technology, such as AI, to ensure we get the very best healthcare in the NHS. He said the NHS needs to be reformed, and it isn't just about money. Starmer was asked repeatedly about how will these changes be paid for, and failed to give a clear answer.
Investment ‘will be key’ for Labour’s health mission, says IPPR
The IPPR think tank has said that Labour is “right” to adopt a new health mission for the NHS, but has stressed that investment will be “key” if the party hopes to achieve its ambitions.
Chris Thomas, Head of IPPR’s Commission on Health and Prosperity, said: “The NHS was created at a time when conditions like tuberculosis remained among the biggest killers. But today’s challenges are different. A shift to more preventative care – and more care in the community – is long overdue.
“Labour is right in its ambition to create a 21st century plan for a 21st century NHS. But there also needs to be a plan for investment alongside these bold reforms to help make such an aspirational target believable.
“Investing in the things that drive healthier lives, like good housing, a healthy diet and lower smoking rates will be critical for delivering healthier people and a healthier economy.”
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has also commented on Labour’s new healthcare plan - which includes reducing heart disease by a quarter within a decade.
Dr Charmaine Griffiths, Chief Executive at BHF, told NationalWorld: “Cardiovascular disease is responsible for one death every three minutes in the UK, so we’re heartened to see that Labour recognises the bold ambition needed to better prevent, diagnose, treat and focus research on one of the nation’s biggest killers.
“Medical research has helped us make great strides in saving lives from heart attacks and strokes over the last 60 years. But the pace of progress had slowed even before the pandemic, and heart and circulatory disease death rates have now increased.
“With the current extreme and unrelenting pressure on the NHS, we could see this concerning rise in cardiovascular disease death rates continue unless all parties commit to prioritising NHS heart care, better preventing heart disease and stroke, and powering science to unlock future treatments and cures.”
Sunak has confidence in Braverman over speeding scandal
Rishi Sunak's spokesman has been speaking to reporters in Westminster about the Suella Braverman speeding scandal. The spokesman said the Prime Minister continues to have confidence in the Home Secretary. Sunak has spoken to his ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus and was “availing himself of information” about the situation. It is understood no formal inquiry has yet been launched into whether she breached the ministerial code.
Braverman refuses to deny she asked civil servants to arrange private speeding course
Suella Braverman has publicly spoken for the first time over the speeding row. The Home Secretary insisted there was “nothing untoward” about her handling of a speeding offence, however refused to deny that she had asked civil servants to arrange a private course for her, my colleague Ethan Shone reports.
Asked directly if she asked officials to arrange a one-to-one course for her, she said: “Last summer, I was speeding. I regret that. I paid the fine and I took the points but we’re focused now on delivering for the British people and working for them.”
Pressed on the same question, she said: “In relation to the process, I’m focused on delivering for the British people, doing my job as Home Secretary and what I will say is that, in my view, I’m confident that nothing untoward has happened.”
Analysis: 'fair to question Starmer on money'
My colleague Tom Hourigan, NationalWorld's Politics Editor, spent the morning in Braintree listening to Keir Starmer's plans for the NHS. This is what he thought of the Labour leader's speech:
"In a pretty draughty ambulance station, Keir Starmer sought to warm up his audience - made up mostly of Labour supporters - with pledges few people would argue with. Cut waiting lists - tick. Ensure cancer is picked up earlier and treated more quickly - tick. Widen access to mental health treatment - tick.
He also made it clear he was realistic about the challenges ahead and the reforms needed to ensure the NHS works for everyone - insisting he wouldn’t put the health service on a “pedestal”.
But he batted away every question from the journalists sat around me about how much these reforms would cost - repeating several times that this is not all about money. These were fair questions, though, when the shortfall in the NHS budget is estimated to be up to £7 billion this year.
Ahead of the election, Starmer is setting out five national “missions” to the public to address criticism that people don’t know what he stands for. But there aren’t many politicians who don’t want to invest and improve in the NHS - so the Labour leader will need to get into the detail, and explain how he’ll keep his word if he gets into Downing Street, sooner rather than later."