Rishi Sunak defends his decision to re-appoint Braverman at first PMQs

ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports on Rishi Sunak's first PMQs as leader.

Rishi Sunak has defended his decision to re-appoint Suella Braverman as home secretary during his first session of Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday.

The PM was questioned by Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer as to whether it was right to bring her back into the Cabinet, following her resignation last week for breaching the Ministerial Code.

He said: "The home secretary made an error of judgment but she recognised that, she raised the matter and she accepted her mistake.

“That is why I was delighted to welcome her back into a united cabinet that brings experience and stability to the heart of government.”

But Sir Keir hit back at the PM, asking if "officials raised concerns about his decision to appoint her” to which Mr Sunak replied: “I just addressed the issue of the home secretary".

On Wednesday night's Peston, former public standards committee chairman told the ITV News political editor: "Any breach of the Ministerial code I think has to be taken very seriously.

"Which is why I think it is an unfortunate start for our new Prime Minister, that given the choice between the speculation, doing a deal with Suella Braverman to support him or keeping to the issues related to trust and integrity that he says are central to the values of his government, he chose the political deal."

During a heated PMQs session, Sir Keir argued the "Tories have crashed the economy" and accused Mr Sunak of pretending to be on the side of working people.

“Over the summer he was secretly recorded at a garden party in Tunbridge Wells boasting to a group of Tory members that he personally moved money away from deprived areas to wealthy places instead," he said.

"Rather than apologise or pretend that he meant something else, why doesn’t he now do the right thing and undo the changes he made to those funding formulas?”

In response the PM said the government would "relentlessly support" deprived areas because "we are a government that will deliver across the United Kingdom".

He added: "This summer I was being honest about the difficulties that we were facing, but when he ran for leader he promised his party he would borrow billions and billions of pounds.

“I told the truth for the good of the country, he told his party what it wanted to hear. Leadership is not selling fairy tales, it is confronting challenges, and that is the leadership the British people will get from this government.”

Ahead of PMQs, Mr Sunak’s new-look Cabinet met for the first time in Downing Street.

On his first day at the helm, the PM culled nearly a dozen of Ms Truss’s top-tier ministers, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, before reviving the careers of ousted frontbenchers.

His appointment at Downing Street calmed the markets after a turbulent few weeks in the wake of Ms Truss' and her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng's mini-budget.

Rishi Sunak's new Cabinet met for the first time on Wednesday. Credit: PA

As Mr Sunak took the keys to Number 10, the cost of government borrowing dropped and the pound rallied to the highest level since before the chaos.

Boris Johnson’s loyalists who stayed close to Ms Truss were among the 11 ministers who were out of government, while Mr Sunak rewarded allies with Cabinet roles.

Ms Braverman, Dominic Raab and Michael Gove were among those in Mr Sunak's top team, while Mr Hunt is staying on as chancellor.

But his appointment of Ms Braverman raised eyebrows after she was returned as home secretary six days after launching an attack on Ms Truss, when she was forced from the role over a breach of the Ministerial Code.

Watch as Rishi Sunak faced Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at his first PMQs as leader

James Cleverly, who was retained as foreign secretary by the PM, earlier defended the re-appointment of Ms Braverman, saying she has now apologised for her “mistake”.

He said: "Well Suella said at the time that she had made a mistake. She apologised for doing so and she stood down.

"Now, the prime minister has clearly accepted her apology and has come to the view that what we need to do across government, across all government departments, is to get delivery focused right from day one.”

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have called for a Cabinet Office probe into the return of Ms Braverman, demanding her sacking if she's found to have "repeatedly broke the ministerial code".

James Cleverly defended the prime minister's decision to re-appoint Suella Braverman as home secretary

Lib Dem Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said: “Suella Braverman’s appointment makes a mockery of Rishi Sunak’s claims to be bringing integrity to Number 10.

“There must be a full independent inquiry by the Cabinet Office into her appointment, including any promises Sunak made to her behind closed doors."

The former chancellor entered Downing Street after winning the swift Conservative leadership contest on Monday, with rivals Mr Johnson and Penny Mordaunt pulling their campaigns before a single vote was cast.

Mr Sunak, the third prime minister in three years, has ruled out allowing the early general election demanded by opposition parties, as the Tories move on to their third prime minister on the mandate won by Mr Johnson in 2019.

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