Rishi Sunak faces a police investigation today after admitting he was not wearing a seatbelt while recording a video in his official car.
The Prime Minister apologized and acknowledged an “error of judgement” after a now-deleted Instagram clip showed him in the back seat of the vehicle unrestrained.
Lancashire Police have said they are “investigating” the matter. Failure to wear a seat belt can be punishable by a fine of up to £500, although a fixed fine of £100 is more common.
Blackpool South Conservative MP Scot Benton has urged the force not to use its resources to investigate “politically motivated” claims about seatbelt use.
Downing Street today repeated the Prime Minister’s apology, saying: “It was a mistake and he has apologized and believes it is important to do so as people should wear seatbelts.”
The spokesman said he was not going to pre-empt any proceedings and was “not aware” Sunak had spoken to officers.
Asked whether the police would waste time investigating the matter, No 10 said: “It is entirely a question for the police where they allocate resources.”
The prime minister has yet to make any comments in person.
The embarrassing developments, nine months after Sunak was sanctioned alongside Boris Johnson for breaching Covid rules, capped a miserable day for the prime minister.
He faced backlash for flying to Blackpool for a visit to promote ‘Leveling Up’ projects, during which he suggested Tories calling for immediate tax cuts were ‘idiots’.
The spending announcements were also criticized for targeting mainly 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 noticed that the prime minister appeared not to be wearing a seatbelt.
A Lancashire Police spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the matter and will investigate it.”
A Downing Street spokesman said Sunak “fully accepts this was a mistake and apologises”.
“The Prime Minister believes that everyone should wear a seat belt,” the spokesperson said.
“It was an error of judgement, he took it down for a short period of time to film a clip, which you’ve already seen, but he accepts it was a mistake.”
Mr Sunak was asked about not wearing a seatbelt as he left a broadcast interview but did not respond.
There are some exemptions to seat belt rules, including when a car is used for police, fire and rescue services and for certified medical problems.
But Downing Street does not believe there is an exception for traveling in a ministerial car.
In a post on Twitter this morning, Benton 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 seat belt use are not a good use of frontline resources,” he added.
In the video, police motorbikes can be seen escorting the car as Sunak addresses the camera.
The Government has considered tightening rules on seatbelt use to ensure that drivers who do not wear them can receive penalty points.
Recent figures from the Department for Transport suggested that around 30 per cent of people killed in cars on British roads in 2021 were not restrained.
Sunak flew to Blackpool yesterday morning before visiting Accrington and Morecambe, although it is unclear at what point in his trip he filmed the social media clip.
At one point in his Instagram video, police on motorbikes can be seen through Sunak’s passenger window.
The Prime Minister used the clip to encourage users to follow his progress on his trip to the north of England as he “got out and saw Leveling Up in action”.
On his visit to Morecambe, Sunak challenged Tory calls for tax cuts in the budget, suggesting only idiots think the burden can fall quickly after Covid and the Ukraine war.
Rishi Sunak gave a blunt answer when asked about the possibility of upcoming reductions.
The Prime Minister gave a blunt response when asked about the prospects for upcoming cuts, also criticizing James Dyson after the billionaire launched a brutal attack on the government’s “short-sighted” and “stupid” policies.
Asked during a visit to Morecambe whether he would cut taxes, Mr Sunak said: “I’m a Conservative, I want to cut your taxes… I wish I could do it tomorrow, frankly, but the reason we can’t is because Of all the reasons you know.
“You’re not idiots, you know what happened.”
He said the pandemic and war in Ukraine had left public finances “not where they needed to be.”
Sunak said “it takes a bit of work to get there” but promised to strengthen the economy so the NHS and schools can be funded, ensure lower interest rates and “get a handle on” inflation.
“Believe me, that’s what I’m going to do for you this year, that’s what we’re going to do while I’m Prime Minister and if we do those things we can reduce your taxes,” he added.
Sunak also referred to the “super deduction”, which allows companies to invest large sums of money tax-free, and said he would like to hear from Sir James if any other countries offer something similar.
Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt have been struggling to generate revenue since the Downing Street handover last October, insisting their priority is stabilizing the government’s finances following the disastrous Liz Truss crisis.
However, there is concern on the Conservative benches that there appears to be no prospect of tax cuts in the March budget.
MailOnline understands that there is instead pressure from the Cabinet for Hunt to ease the crushing burden on Britons by the autumn, with fears it may be the only “narrow path” for the Conservatives to win the next election.
Asked whether Mr Sunak considered people who wanted tax cuts “idiots”, a Downing Street spokesman said: “He didn’t call anyone an idiot and he himself set out his ambitions to reduce the tax burden over time.”
‘He said the worst thing he could do is make promises he can’t keep and load the country with more debt.
‘And he stated once again that his overall ambition is to reduce taxes. But that has to be when we have economic stability and inflation goes down.”
The tax burden has increased considerably in recent years, causing alarm among conservatives.