Rishi Sunak backs Suella Braverman after MI5 leak report

Nadhim Zahawi defends Suella Braverman as Home Secretary

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The Prime Minister brought Ms Braverman back into the Cabinet just days after she was forced out by predecessor Liz Truss over separate security breaches. Tory MPs raised their concerns about Ms Braverman’s appointment to the role and warned a breakdown in trust with the security service was bad for the nation.

Downing Street insisted the Home Secretary has “strong relationships” with MI5 and the intelligence agencies.

Ms Braverman’s return to the Home Office came just six days after she was ousted for sending private documents on her personal phone to an MP and someone she thought was his wife.

Since her return, reports have emerged that she was investigated while Attorney General over the leak of a story that said she was seeking an injunction to block a BBC story about a British spy. 

Tories said Mr Sunak had made a mistake giving Ms Braverman the sensitive Home Office brief because it made the party look like it has “no morals or ethics”.

Senior figures said the decision shows Mr Sunak has “no political antenna” and does not understand the Conservative party because he has only been a member for “five minutes”.

Ms Braverman’s future as Home Secretary is now on “life support” and any attempt by Labour to force a vote on her conduct through a censure motion would cause problems for the government, according to one MP.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman insisted MI5 is confident in Ms Braverman.

“The Home Secretary continues to have strong relationships with all the operational bodies that report into the Home Office and are focused very much on keeping the country safe,” he said.

Ms Braverman’s allies said a suggestion that MI5 will give her lessons on what information she can and cannot share to prevent another breach was “nonsense”.

Mark Pritchard, a former member of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, said: “MI5 need to have confidence in the Home Secretary – whoever that might be.

“It’s a vital relationship of trust, key to the UK’s security and democratic oversight of MI5. Any breakdown in that relationship is bad for the Security Service and the government. It needs to be sorted ASAP.”

Tory Caroline Nokes backed opposition calls for an inquiry and said there are “big questions hanging over this whole issue”.

“And to be frank I would like to see them cleared up so that the Home Secretary can get on with her job,” she said.

“If that means a full inquiry then I think that’s the right thing to do.”

Ms Braverman had been said to have breached the ministerial code twice last week when sending information from her own phone.

But former Tory chairman Sir Jake Berry claimed there were actually “multiple breaches” of the code.

Successor Nadhim Zahawi defended Ms Braverman’s reappointment, arguing that she admitted the “mistake” last week and resigned “immediately”.

“She fell on her sword, she didn’t try to ride it out and try to hang on to her job,” he said.

“This Prime Minister looked at the details of this case and he believes in second chances and he’s giving Suella Braverman a second chance. I believe in redemption, as I’m sure many of your listeners would do as well.”

Labour former Home Secretary Lord Blunkett warned of two “unfortunate” outcomes to Ms Braverman’s reappointment.

He said: “One is that the security and intelligence services will be reluctant to provide the briefings and the openness needed.

“And the second is that other international security agencies will be reluctant to share with us if they are fearful that their information will be passed out of Government itself.”

Cabinet Office minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe insisted that Ms Braverman “deserves another chance” just days after she was forced to quit over a security breach.

She said: “Ministers receive the security briefing, as he knows, that they need to do their job in an appropriate manner.

“She brings experience and talents to the job. She apologised, she acknowledged her mistake. That was dealt with by the previous Prime Minister and you have to allow us to look forward.”

She added: “Ms Braverman wrote a letter to the (then) prime minister. She set out why she was resigning. She resigned in good order and quickly. She deserves another chance.”

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