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Sunak’s ‘inadvertent’ seatbelt mistake not a resignation matter, Raab says

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Rishi Sunak is not considering his position after being fined for failing to wear a seatbelt in a moving car, the Deputy Prime Minister has indicated.

Dominic Raab said that by admitting he made an “inadvertent mistake”, the Prime Minister has not thrown his promise of a premiership of “integrity” into disarray.

Mr Sunak has come under fire after being handed a police fine for a second time, with critics accusing him of showing “the same disregard for the rules” as his predecessor in No 10, Boris Johnson.

Lancashire Constabulary on Friday announced it was fining the Prime Minister after he was spotted not wearing his seatbelt in an Instagram video filmed to promote levelling-up funding during a visit to Lancashire a day earlier.

Downing Street said Mr Sunak “fully accepts this was a mistake and has apologised” and that he will “of course” pay the fine.

Deputy Prime Minister Mr Raab told Sky News on Saturday: “Of course it shouldn’t have happened.

“But I think, with these things, what people expect most of all is, you know, the individual concerned, whoever it may be, put their hand up, be honest about it, accept the mistake, pay the fine.

“And I think, look, given the circumstances, I don’t think it’s something which would result in his resignation.”

Asked about Labour’s claim that the episode made the Prime Minister a “laughing stock”, Mr Raab said: “I think you’ve got someone doing a very busy job – as many people do, so it’s no excuse – who’s made an inadvertent mistake. He’s put his hand up, he’s apologised for it.”

The Justice Secretary, who is himself under investigation over bullying allegations, said it was “perfectly proper” for police to have looked into the seatbelt blunder, adding: “We wouldn’t second-guess the role of the police in this.”

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner accused Mr Sunak of displaying a “lack of judgment” having received his second fixed penalty notice in less than a year.

He previously paid one as chancellor, alongside Mr Johnson, amid the partygate scandal for attending a lockdown-busting gathering to mark the then-prime minister’s birthday.

Mr Sunak is the second prime minister in history, after Mr Johnson, to be slapped with a police fine while in the top job.

Ms Rayner told BBC Breakfast: “The fact that he’s had two fixed penalty notices in nine months, I think, shows a lack of judgment on his behalf, especially as chancellor and then as the Prime Minister. And I think he should use this opportunity to highlight that safety does matter in vehicles.”

Lancashire Constabulary did not reveal how much Mr Sunak was fined, but fixed penalty notices for seatbelt offences are usually £100, rising to up to £500 if taken to court.

Lancashire Police said: “You will be aware that a video has been circulating on social media showing an individual failing to wear a seatbelt while a passenger in a moving car in Lancashire.

“After looking into this matter, we have today issued a 42-year-old man from London with a conditional offer of fixed penalty.”

A fixed penalty notice is a sanction for breaking the law, which allows the recipient to pay a set amount of money to avoid going to court.

A Labour spokesperson said: “Hapless Rishi Sunak’s levelling-up photo op has blown up in his face and turned him into a laughing stock.

“He started the week hoping people would be grateful for a partial refund on the money that has been stripped from them over 13 years of the Tories. But instead he got a warring party and yet another fine from the police.”

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “Rishi Sunak has shown the same disregard for the rules as Boris Johnson, and now becomes the second ever prime minister to be fined by the police.

“From partygate to seatbelt gate, these Conservative politicians are just taking the British people for fools.

“Whilst they continue to behave as though it’s one rule for them and another for everyone else, this fine is a reminder that the Conservatives eventually get their comeuppance.”

The fine capped a tough week for Mr Sunak, who was criticised for using a jet for a series of domestic trips and faced accusations that allocations of levelling-up funding were motivated by an attempt to shore up support in southern Tory seats.

He is also facing calls to sack Nadhim Zahawi as Tory party chairman after reports that he paid a penalty to HMRC as part of a multimillion-pound tax settlement.

In his first speech outside Downing Street, Mr Sunak pledged “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level”, after Mr Johnson was forced out in the wake of a string of scandals.

But the latest inhabitant of No 10 has been plagued by his own set of controversies from day one, from criticism for reinstating Suella Braverman as Home Secretary just six days after she was forced to step down over a security breach, to the ongoing bullying inquiry into Mr Raab.