No. 10 today insisted it was “a matter for the police” to punish Rishi Sunak for not wearing his seat belt in his police car.
The Prime Minister has apologized and admitted an “error of discretion” after a now-removed Instagram clip showed him in the back seat of the vehicle without restraint.
Lancashire Police have said they are “investigating” the issue. Failure to wear a seatbelt can result in a fine of up to £500 – although a £100 fine is more common.
Tory MP for Blackpool South Scot Benton has urged the force not to use its resources to investigate “politically motivated” claims of seatbelt use.
But Downing Street stressed that the police are operationally independent and will decide how to proceed. “It was a mistake and he has apologized and feels it is important to do so as people should wear their seatbelts,” a spokesman said.
The spokesman said he would not “move forward” with the “trial” and was “unaware” that Mr Sunak had spoken to officials.
Asked if the police were wasting their time investigating the issue, No. 10 said: “It’s entirely up to the police where they allocate resources.”
The Prime Minister has not yet made any personal comment.
The embarrassing developments – nine months after Mr Sunak was sentenced alongside Boris Johnson for breaking Covid rules – capped a miserable day for the Prime Minister.
He faced backlash for taking a plane to Blackpool to visit Leveling Up projects, where he suggested Tories calling for immediate tax cuts were “idiots”.
The spending announcements were also criticized for going mainly to London and the South East rather than the Red Wall.
Rishi Sunak used the social media clip to promote his Leveling Up tour. But viewers quickly realized that the Prime Minister did not appear to be wearing a seat belt
Rishi Sunak gave a blunt response when asked about the potential for reductions in the near future
A Lancashire Police spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the matter and will investigate it.”
A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Sunak “fully accept that this was a mistake and apologize”.
“The PM believes everyone should wear a seat belt,” the spokesman said.
“It was a misjudgment, he removed it for a short time to shoot a clip you saw but he accepts that was a mistake.”
Mr Sunak was asked if he had not fastened his seat belt when walking away from a television interview, but did not answer.
There are some exceptions to seat belt rules, including when a car is used for police, fire and rescue services, and for certified medical purposes.
However, Downing Street does not believe there is an exception for traveling in a ministerial car.
Mr Benton, who posted on Twitter this morning, said Lancashire Police should spend their time investigating “serious crimes affecting my constituents”.
“The vast majority of people would think that politically motivated complaints about a seat belt are not a good use of frontline resources,” he added.
Police motorcycles can be seen in the video escorting the car while Mr Sunak addresses the camera.
The government has considered tightening seat belt rules to ensure drivers who do not wear them can be penalized.
Latest figures from the Department for Transport suggest around 30 per cent of people killed in cars on Britain’s roads in 2021 were unopposed.
Mr Sunak flew to Blackpool yesterday morning before visiting Accrington and Morecambe, although it is unclear at what point in his journey he filmed the social media clip.
At one point in his Instagram video, police outriders on motorcycles can be seen through Mr Sunak’s passenger window.
The Prime Minister used the clip to encourage users to follow his progress on his trip to northern England as he “got out and watch Leveling Up in action”.
Visiting Morecambe, Mr Sunak defied Tory calls for budget tax cuts and hinted that only idiots believe the post-Covid and Ukraine war burden can fall quickly.
The PM gave a blunt response when asked about the potential for cuts soon – and also lashed out at James Dyson after the billionaire launched a brutal attack on the government’s “short-sighted” and “stupid” policies.
When asked during a visit to Morecambe if he would cut taxes, Mr Sunak said: “I’m a Conservative, I want to cut your taxes… I wish I could do that tomorrow, quite honestly, but that’s why we can’t, is because for all the reasons you know.
‘You are not idiots, you know what happened.’
He said the pandemic and war in Ukraine had left public finances “not where they needed to be”.
Mr Sunak said “it takes a bit of work to get there” but he pledged to strengthen the economy so the NHS and schools can get funding, secure lower interest rates and “get a handle on” inflation.
“Trust me, I’m going to do that for you this year, we’re going to do that while I’m prime minister and if we do those things, we can lower your taxes,” he added.
Mr Sunak also pointed to the “super deduction” which allows companies to invest large sums tax-free and said he would like to hear from Sir James if any other country offers anything similar.
Mr Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt have been scrambling to raise revenue since the Downing Street handover last October, insisting their priority is to stabilize government finances following the catastrophic collapse of Liz Truss.
However, there is unrest on the Conservative benches as there seems to be no prospect of tax cuts in the March budget.
MailOnline understands there is instead a cabinet push for Mr Hunt to ease Britons’ staggering burden until the autumn, and fears it may be the only “narrow path” to Tory victory in the next election.
Asked if Mr Sunak considered people who wanted tax cuts “idiots”, a Downing Street spokesman said: “He has not called anyone an idiot and he himself has set out his ambitions to reduce the tax burden over time.
“He said the worst thing he could do was make promises he couldn’t keep and burden a country with even more debt.
“And he has reiterated that his overall goal is to lower taxes. But it has to be when we have economic stability and inflation has come down.’
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11658005/No10-says-matter-police-fine-Rishi-Sunak-seatbelt.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 No. 10 says ‘matter for the police’ whether to fine Rishi Sunak for wearing a seat belt