Downing Street has apologised again for Rishi Sunak not wearing a seatbelt while in the back seat of a moving car earlier this week.
A No 10 spokesperson said on Friday that the incident was a “mistake”, even as Lancashire police begin an investigation into whether the prime minister broke the law.
“It was a mistake and he’s apologised and thinks it’s important to do so, as people should wear their seatbelt,” the spokesperson said. “I’m obviously not going to get ahead of any process. You’ve got what the Lancashire police have said.”
The apology came a day after a video was uploaded to Sunak’s Instagram page showing him turning in his seat and talking to the camera about the government’s levelling-up agenda, without wearing a seatbelt.
The car was being escorted by police outriders at the time, taking the prime minister to a visit designed to publicise the awarding of millions of pounds’ worth of grants from the levelling-up fund.
The footage sparked criticism from Labour, who accused the prime minister of not knowing how to manage “his seatbelt, his debit card, a train service, the economy, the country”.
It also prompted a police inquiry, with the local police service saying it was aware of the matter and seeking more information.
|The prime minister’s spokesperson said on Friday he was not aware that Sunak had yet been contacted by the police. Asked to comment on whether the prime minister thought this was a good use of police time, the spokesperson said it was “a matter for the police”.
Asked if Sunak, who was fined last year for breaching Covid rules when he was chancellor, had “a problem with breaking the law”, the spokesperson added: “I’ve been clear that he has acknowledged it was a mistake and has apologised. I’ve got nothing to add further to that.”
The incident caps a difficult week for Sunak, whose tour of the north of England was overshadowed both by questions over his seatbelt and by criticism over his decision to fly there in an RAF jet.
He also came under fire from Andy Street, the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands, who said the decision to hand out grants from a central levelling up fund encouraged a “begging bowl culture”. Guardian analysis found Conservative seats had received considerably more from the second round of grants from the fund than seats with similar levels of deprivation.