Rishi Sunak has cleared Suella Braverman of breaching the ministerial code but rebuked the Home Secretary over her handling of a speeding fine.
The Prime Minister said an investigation was “not necessary” following accusations at the weekend that she asked civil servants to arrange a private speed awareness course for her last year.
But he warned Mrs Braverman that “a better course of action” could have been taken to “avoid giving rise to the perception of impropriety”.
Mr Sunak revealed his conclusion in a letter to his colleague. The outcome avoids inflaming the Tory civil war, with Mrs Braverman strongly backed by a group of MPs on the right of the party.
But it was branded a “cowardly cop-out” by Opposition politicians. In a letter to the PM, Mrs Braverman wrote: “In hindsight, or if faced with a similar situation again, I would have chosen a different course of action.
“I sought to explore whether bespoke arrangements were possible, given my personal circumstances as a security-protected Minister.
“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.”
“My interactions with officials intended to provide appropriate clarification of the options available to me in my role as Home Secretary.
“Whenever I was informed that a possible option was not available, I accepted that. At no point did I instruct officials to behave contrary to the advice that was provided.”
Mr Sunak responded that a “better course of action could have been taken, but his ethics chief Sir Laurie Magnus had agreed that the matter did not need to be pursued.
The PM wrote: “I have consulted with my independent adviser. He has advised that on this occasion further investigation is not necessary and I have accepted that advice.
“On the basis of your letter and our discussion, my decision is that these matters do not amount to a breach of the ministerial code.
“As you have recognised, a better course of action could have been taken to avoid giving rise to the perception of impropriety.”
It was revealed at the weekend that Mrs Braverman was caught speeding last summer when she was attorney general. She was given the option of taking three penalty points or doing a speed awareness course.
After becoming Home Secretary she allegedly asked officials whether they could arrange a one-to-one course to avoid publicity.
Officials refused, warning it would breach the civil service code. Mrs Braverman admitted speeding, paying a fine and taking penalty points on her driving licence.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer poked fun at her during questions about immigration and employment policies, claiming she has a problem “coping with points-based systems”.
Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said it was a “cowardly cop-out” adding that the PM “had the chance to do the right thing” but instead chose to be “ruled by his own hardline backbenchers”.