Rishi Sunak has insisted he did not let Home Secretary Suella Braverman “off the hook” after clearing her of breaching the ministerial code without launching an investigation.
The Prime Minister refused calls to launch an official investigation after she asked officials if she could attend a private speed awareness course for driving too fast.
Opposition critics accused Mr Sunak of being “too weak” to act over Mrs Braverman, who is an influential figure on the right of the Tory party.
But, in an interview with ITV’s This Morning, he said: “I haven’t let her off the hook.”
Mrs Braverman was keeping a low profile on Thursday despite official estimates showing net migration has hit a record high, despite the Tory commitment to bring the figure down.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick was sent to the Commons to answer an urgent question on the statistics in Mrs Braverman’s place, and she was not scheduled to speak to the media.
Mr Sunak was under pressure to launch an investigation but decided that her actions did not “amount to a breach” of the standards set for ministers.
The Prime Minister told ITV he had spoken with his ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus, who “said we can close the matter here, so that’s what we’ve done”.
Mr Sunak said that he stands by his commitment to run an administration of “integrity, professionalism, and accountability”.
“That’s what I want the hallmarks of my Government to be,” he told ITV.
“I can’t be judged on things that happened before I was Prime Minister – what you can judge me on is on that when things happen now, how do I deal with them?”
Mrs Braverman was caught speeding in June 2022, while she was attorney general.
But after becoming Home Secretary she asked officials whether attending a group speed awareness course was appropriate given her security concerns.
This led to allegations she may have breached the code by asking taxpayer-funded civil servants to help with a private matter.
She later accepted a fine and penalty points on her driving licence for the speeding offence.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer poked fun at Ms Braverman during questions about immigration and employment policies on Wednesday.
He claimed she has a problem “coping with points-based systems” and asked Mr Sunak: “Does he wish he had the strength to give her a career change of her own?”
Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain accused the Prime Minister of a “cowardly cop-out”.
“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,” she added.