Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been given a fixed penalty notice by Lancashire Police after being filmed in the passenger seat of a moving car without wearing a seatbelt. The Prime Minister was under fire on social media, after Twitter users spotted the Tory leader breaking seatbelt rules in the back of a moving car.
Sunak was filmed speaking inside a moving car while he travelled through Blackpool. However, eagle-eyed users spotted that the Prime Minister did not appear to be wearing a seatbelt in the moving vehicle.
Downing Street confirmed that Sunak would pay the fine in full. A Number 10 spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister fully accepts this was a mistake and has apologised. He will of course comply with the fixed penalty.”
This marks the second time a serving Prime Minister has been found to have broken the law. Boris Johnson received a fine in April 2022 for his part in partygate gatherings in Downing Street, with then-Chancellor Sunak also receiving a fine for the same offence.
It comes after he was condemned for his use of a private jet to travel to Blackpool from RAF Northolt in London - a journey which took only four minutes. Labour accused the Prime Minister of making a “mockery” of his environmental strategy, while Downing Street attempted to defend the move as Sunak making “the best use of his time”.
What happened in the video?
In the video, Sunak could be seen speaking directly to the camera, sat slightly side on from the back passenger’s seat, while the car he was in drove through a residential area in Lancashire. Throughout the clip, he was promoting his new levelling-up initiatives.
However, his upper torso was clearly in-frame in the video, meaning that his lack of seatbelt was clear and obvious to viewers. As the car drove through the neighbourhood, police motorbikes which had been escorting the prime minister’s car could be seen in passing.
What has been the reaction?
Many have been left angry at the prime minister’s behaviour. One Twitter user said “laws don’t apply to him”, while another added: “Luckily there was no coppers about.....oh wait, what was that?!”
Another user had also pointed out how Sunak’s actions could have contradicted the words of his health minister Will Quince, who told the public not to engage in “risky activity” while NHS strikes were ongoing. They said: “Don’t take risks when there are strikes, isn’t that the message?”
Labour have criticsed the Prime Minister for his lapse in judgement. A spokeswoman for the party said: “Rishi Sunak doesn’t know how to manage a seatbelt, his debit card, a train service, the economy, this country. This list is growing every day, and it’s making for endless painful viewing.”
Taking a swipe at his use of private jets around the country as well, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper added: “It seems like the PM is getting too used to flying around in private jets that he’s forgotten to wear a seatbelt in a car. The fact he’s breaking a basic law is just embarrassing and frankly dangerous.”
A spokeperson for Lancashire Police said: “We are aware of the matter and we will be looking into it.”
What has Rishi Sunak said about the clip?
After the clip was widely shared on social media, a spokesman for Downing Street said that the prime minister had made a “brief error of judgement” in removing his seatbelt to film the short clip. They added that Sunak has apologised and “fully accepts this was a mistake”.
The Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister believes everyone should wear a seatbelt. It was an error of judgment, he removed it for a short period of time to film a clip, which you’ve seen, but he accepts that was a mistake.”
What is the law around seatbelts in the UK?
The use of seatbelts in both the front and back seats of a car have been required by law in the UK since 1991. According to the government, you must wear a seatbelt if there is one fitted on your seat, with only one person permitted to each seatbelt.
Not adhering to this rule is breaking the law. If you are found not to be wearing a seatbelt at the approriate time, you can face a fine of up to £500.
There are some exceptions to the rule. For example, if the vehicle is being used for police, fire and rescue services, the lack of seatbelt use will not be fined.
The Department for Transport recently released figures which suggested that around 30% of people who were killed in cars in the UK in 2021 were not using the safety measure. The AA added: “No matter who you are it is important to wear your seatbelt when in the car. In 2020, a fifth of all car occupant fatalities were not wearing a seatbelt.”