Rishi Sunak is under growing pressure over his reappointment of Suella Braverman as home secretary after a former party chair claimed she had committed “multiple breaches” of the ministerial code.
Ms Braverman resigned her post just over a week ago after using her personal email address to forward sensitive government documents, breaking the rules ministers have to abide by.
But the new prime minister put her back into the Home Office on Tuesday, and stood by the decision after being pressed on it in the Commons on Wednesday.
Later on Wednesday, Sir Jake Berry – who Mr Sunak fired from his post two days ago – told TalkTV: “From my own knowledge, there were multiple breaches of the ministerial code.”
New Tory Party chair Nadhim Zahawi defended Ms Braverman’s appointment, telling Sky News: “People… are allowed a second chance.”
But he would not deny officials within the Cabinet Office warned against bringing her back due to the security breaches, saying: “Officials raise concerns and raise points… with ministers all the time, and I think they should be allowed to do that.
“And having discussions on air about what officials advise ministers I think would be unhealthy for the way we run our country because they should feel they can do that without being quoted in public.”
During PMQs yesterday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused Mr Sunak of having done a “grubby deal” with Ms Braverman – a figure popular on the right of the party – in order to secure the keys to Number 10.
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy called for a full investigation into Ms Braverman’s actions and for her to be sacked, telling Sky News: “The home secretary is the most serious job you could have in our state.
“This is a person who makes judgements about terrorism and counter-terrorism, who makes judgements about very, very serious offenders, whether they should be allowed out of prison, and for that reason, it’s someone who, I’m afraid, judgement is critically important.
“I’m afraid this is a lapse of judgement that, quite rightly, she was sacked for. The question is, why was she brought back?”
But Mr Zahawi said: “She admitted her mistake, she resigned. A new prime minister came in, looked at the information and decided that he wants to give her a second chance.
“It think that is the right decision. Redemption is a good thing.”
Meanwhile, the new prime minister has confirmed that a planned Halloween budget will be delayed until 17 November so the latest economic forecasts can be taken into account.
But Downing Street has refused to confirm whether pensions will increase in line with inflation come April, which is running above 10%.
Conservative MP Maria Caulfield – who warned she would vote against ending the pensions triple lock earlier this month – has told Sky News that the lack of a confirmation worries her.
“When the government doesn’t confirm one way or another, the speculation mounts and vacuums are created and people start to worry. I’ve got pensioners who are worried,” she told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge.
The triple lock means the state pension must rise by average earnings, inflation or 2.5% – whichever is highest.
Mr Sunak’s press secretary has said no comment will be made “ahead of any fiscal statements or budgets”, but added: “What I can say is he has shown through his record as chancellor that he will do what’s right and compassionate for the most vulnerable.”
In separate developments, the new PM also confirmed that he was reinstating the ban on fracking that Liz Truss had controversially lifted during her brief premiership.
Speaking at the London Press Club Awards last night, newly reappointed Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove declared that “boring is back” following “12 months of turbulence”.
And government appointments continued late into the evening – with the most notable change seeing former transport secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan demoted to Foreign Office minister.
Sunak loyalists, including Alex Chalk, Lucy Frazer and Helen Whately, were given ministerial roles, while former long-serving schools minister Nick Gibb returned to the Department for Education, joined by chair of the education select committee Robert Halfon.