Sunak given fixed penalty notice after being caught not wearing seatbelt

Politics

Rishi Sunak has been given a fixed penalty notice after being caught not wearing a seatbelt.

Lancashire Police issued the notice after the prime minister appeared without a belt in a clip on Instagram as he promoted his levelling-up funding in Lancashire.

Mr Sunak has accepted the fine.

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Number 10 said: “The prime minister fully accepts this was a mistake and has apologised. He will of course comply with the fixed penalty.”

The force 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.”

Mr Sunak is the second serving prime minister – after Boris Johnson – to be found to have broken the law while in office.

He has previously been fined by the Met Police for breaking lockdown rules.

He and Mr Johnson were fined by the Metropolitan Police over a birthday held in Downing Street for the former prime minister when curbs were in place.

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Sunak ‘a total liability’

Labour said the prime minister has been turned into a “laughing stock”.

A party 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.

“Just when you thought this Tory government couldn’t get any more ridiculous, they manage it.”

The party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner added: “Rishi Sunak is a total liability.”

The Liberal Democrats said the prime minister had “shown the same disregard for the rules as Boris Johnson”.

Daisy Cooper, the deputy leader, said: “From partygate to seatbelt gate, these Conservative politicians are just taking the British people for fools.”

Sunak’s slip-ups could be exploited by opponents to brand him out of touch


Political correspondent Joe Pike

Joe Pike

Political correspondent

@joepike

Downing Street will be hoping that once the PM has paid up, voters and journalists will move on and forget this rather embarrassing unforced error.

To Rishi Sunak’s credit, he put his hands up and admitted the error almost immediately.

But it is a reminder that in the top job, with a permacrisis of strikes, NHS delays and high inflation, mistakes can slip through the Number 10 net.

Failing to wear a seatbelt is illegal, but filming it and publishing the evidence on social media suggests a lack of checks within the PM’s team.

This is the second police fine Mr Sunak has received in nine months, after the Met Police punished him for attending a lockdown-busting birthday gathering for Boris Johnson.

In recent months Mr Sunak has struggled with contactless payments, had an awkward conversation with a homeless man about financial services, and demonstrated a fondness for using private jets to travel around the UK even for relatively short journeys.

Added together, such slip-ups may be exploited by the PM’s enemies to claim he is out of touch.

There is certainly a danger these small missteps distract from Mr Sunak’s attempts to stabilise the economy and sort out seemingly intractable issues like migrant crossings and delayed discharges.

Like many occupants of Number 11, Rishi Sunak was a “submarine chancellor”. Invisible below the waves for months on end, he occasionally rose from the deep to launch a killer economic intervention: his “whatever it takes” COVID budget, the furlough scheme, Eat Out To Help Out.

But as Gordon Brown (the last politician to move from 11 to 10) found, similar manoeuvres are not possible as prime minister.

You are constantly in the spotlight. And it is an unsparing existence.

‘Not a criminal offence’

Sky News’ policing analyst Graham Wettone said he is “not surprised” about the notice, adding that it is the “right and proper” resolution.

“It is exactly what would happen to anybody else if they were to commit a similar offence and the police discovered it.”

Mr Wettone dismissed criticism that the prime minister has been treated unfairly, suggesting the case was “fairly simple” and that the law must be applied “impartially”.

One of Mr Sunak’s Tory colleagues sought to downplay the significance of the notice, however.

“This is something millions of Britons experience every single year,” Scott Benton said.

“The Cabinet Office set out clearly last year that a fixed penalty notice isn’t a criminal offence.”

Another controversy

Downing Street said before the fine that Mr Sunak “fully accepts this was a mistake and apologises”.

A spokesman said: “It was an error of judgment, he removed it for a short period of time to film a clip, which you’ve seen, but he accepts that was a mistake.”

Fines of up to £500 can be issued for failing to wear a seatbelt when one is available.

There are a few exemptions, including when a car is being used for police, fire and rescue services, and for certified medical issues.

Mr Sunak came to office promising “integrity” after the scandals that eventually forced Mr Johnson from office.

Mr Sunak’s premiership has been hit with a series of controversies since he entered No 10 in October, from criticism for reinstating Suella Braverman as home secretary six days after she was forced to step down over a security breach to an ongoing bullying inquiry into Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister.

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