Home Secretary Suella Braverman has insisted she addressed concerns about a possible security breach involving the emailing of official government documents “transparently and comprehensively”.
During heated exchanges in the Commons, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper questioned how the public could have confidence in her when she reportedly ignored legal advice on her duty to house migrants and broke ministerial rules on handling official documents.
Braverman hit back, accusing her opponents of “playing political parlour games” in a bid to get rid of her.
In a lengthy statement to MPs earlier, she said she sent official documents from her government email address to her personal account on six occasions, insisting there was “no risk to national security”.
A Home Office review identified the incidents after she was forced to resign for breaching the ministerial code by sending a draft government statement to an ally from her personal account.
Six days after she was forced to quit by Liz Truss, she was reappointed by Rishi Sunak when he became Prime Minister.
In the Commons, Cooper said it looks like Braverman breached the ministerial code – which requires ministers to uphold the law – three times in one day, including one occasion when she ignored legal advice.
“Every day since her reappointment there have been more stories about possible security or ministerial code breaches,” Cooper said.
“How is anybody supposed to have confidence in her given the serious responsibilities of the Home Secretary for security standards and public safety?”
Braverman denied ignoring legal advice and said she had dealt “transparently and comprehensively” with her “error of judgment” in relation to her use of emails, in her letter to the Common Home Affairs Committee.
She accused her opponents of trying to get rid of her because she is serious about dealing with the “scourge” of illegal immigration.
“The system is broken,” she said. “Illegal migration is out of control and too many people are interested in playing political parlour games, covering up the truth than solving the problem.
“I know that I speak for the decent, law-abiding, patriotic majority of British people from every background that wants safe and secure borders.”
Braverman has been under attack on two fronts amid claims that she had ignored warnings by officials that she needed to commission more hotel accommodation for migrants in the face of overcrowding at the temporary holding centre at Manston in Kent.
In her letter to the Home Affairs Committee, Braverman said she was “sorry for the errors of judgment” that resulted in her resignation from Truss’s government on October 19.
She set out details of the email blunder, revealing that although the message was sent at 7.25am, and she realised she had also inadvertently sent it to the wrong person at about 10am, it was hours before she told officials what had happened.
A subsequent review of her use of her personal email revealed six instances where documents were sent from her work account to her private one, including papers on migration policy and public disorder.
She said the documents were sent on occasions when she was conducting meetings virtually or “related to public lines to take in interviews” when she would need to use her personal phone.
“None of the documents in question concerned national security, intelligence agency or cybersecurity matters, and did not pose any risk to national security,” she said.
The Home Secretary said she had been given a “fulsome and detailed security briefing by officials” on appropriate use of Government and personal IT.
Braverman resigned from the Truss government after sending a draft written ministerial statement (WMS) on immigration policy to Tory backbencher Sir John Hayes and, inadvertently, a member of staff of Conservative MP Andrew Percy.
In her account of the day:
At 7.25am she used her personal email account on her personal phone to send the draft WMS, but at some point “before or around” 10am she found a reply saying the document had been “sent to me in error” by someone “with a similar name to Sir John’s secretary”.
Braverman said at this point she realised she had made a mistake and “decided that I would inform my officials as soon as practicable”.
But it was not until about noon, during Prime Minister’s Questions, that she began telling officials, after a chance meeting with Percy and then-chief whip Wendy Morton, where the matter was raised.
Percy emailed Braverman to say “you are nominally in charge of the security of this nation, we have received many warnings even as lowly backbenchers about cybersecurity”, warning that he might raise a Commons point of order.
At 12.56pm and 12.57pm Braverman forwarded all relevant emails to her private secretary, then met Cabinet Secretary Simon Case at about 2pm.
At 2.45pm she met Truss and shortly afterwards resigned.
Braverman said there was nothing market sensitive in the WMS, although it had been intended to help the Office for Budget Responsibility draw up their economic forecasts.
“The draft WMS did not contain any information relating to national security, the intelligence agencies, cybersecurity or law enforcement,” she said.
Braverman apologised to Sunak when she was reappointed as Home Secretary on October 25.