Suella Braverman will not face a formal probe for asking civil servants to help her attend a private speed awareness course after she got a speeding fine.
In a letter to Ms Braverman, Rishi Sunak said he had consulted with his ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus and decided an investigation was “not necessary”.
The prime minister said that after considering the evidence, he had concluded that Ms Braverman’s conduct “did not amount to a breach of the ministerial code”. And Mr Sunak expressed confidence that the home secretary “shares the view” that “high standards” in government are vital.
The Liberal Democrats accused Mr Sunak of a “cowardly cop out”.
The home secretary came under pressure after reports she asked officials to try to arrange a private speed awareness course for her, rather than take penalty points on her driving licence.
In a letter to Mr Sunak, Ms Braverman acknowledged that a “better course of action” would have been to accept the points and fine up front.
She said she “regretted” that her behaviour “enabled some to construe a potential conflict of interest”.
The home secretary explained that in June last year, when she held the role of attorney general, she was found to be speeding. She said a “lack of familiarity with protocol” led to her asking officials whether it was “appropriate” to take a speeding awareness course.
Officials said it was “not an appropriate matter” for civil servants and Ms Braverman continued discussions with her political advisers. She then decided to take the points on her licence and pay the fine.
“In hindsight, or if faced with a similar situation again, I would have chosen a different course of action,” the home secretary said.
She added: “I recognise how some people have construed this as me seeking to avoid sanction — at no point was that the intention or outcome. Nonetheless, given the fundamental importance of integrity in public life, I deeply regret that my actions may have given rise to that perception, and I apologise for the distraction this has caused.”
In his reply to Ms Braverman, Mr Sunak said: “As you have recognised, a better course of action could have been taken to avoid giving rise to the perception of impropriety.
“Nevertheless, I am reassured you take these matters seriously. You have provided a thorough account, apologised and expressed regret. It is vital that all those in government maintain the high standards the public rightly expects.
“I know you share this view, just as we are committed to delivering on the issues that matter to the British people – from making our streets safer and reducing net migration to stopping the boats. “
Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said the prime minister “never takes decisive action”.
“Sunak is too weak to even order an investigation, let alone sack his home secretary,” she said.
“Sunak had the chance to do the right thing but instead he’s once again chosen to be ruled by his own hardline backbenchers. He may be in office but he is barely in power.”