Minister dumped for Huawei spy ‘leak’

Wednesday - 01/05/2019 17:49
Britain's Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has been sacked after being accused of leaking top secret information. Picture: AFPSource:AFP
Britain's Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has been sacked after being accused of leaking top secret information. Picture: AFPSource:AFP
UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has been dumped by Theresa May after he was accused of leaking top secret documents from a spies summit.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has been sacked for leaking top-secret documents from a spies’ summit.

The Sun reports that the Cabinet minister was confronted by Theresa May and accused of breaking his vow to keep Government secrets.

He allegedly told journalists that Mrs May was planning to allow Chinese state-linked firm Huawei to build Britain’s mobile network despite spooks’ fears the company is a massive security risk.

Mr Williamson now faces calls to be prosecuted for allegedly breaking the Official Secrets Act and MPs have written to the police to demand an investigation.
 

Britain's Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson (2R) leaves 10 Downing Street in central London. Picture: AFP
Britain's Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson (2R) leaves 10 Downing Street in central London. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

 

But he furiously denies wrongdoing and insists he is innocent of leaking — telling The Sun: “I did not leak this, and to my dying day I will keep on insisting that.”

The Huawei leak came from the ultra-secretive National Security Council, where top ministers meet with MI5 and MI6 bosses.

The last time a Cabinet minister was forced out for breaching national security was when John Profumo resigned in 1963 because he was having an affair with model Christine Keeler, who was also sleeping with a Soviet diplomat at the height of the Cold War.

The PM tonight confronted Mr Williamson and accused him of being responsible for the leak after an inquiry led by Britain’s top civil servant.

After he refused to resign, saying that would be an admission of guilt, she then wrote to him kicking him out of the Cabinet for divulging secret information.
 

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (C) sits with members of her Cabinet, including Britain's Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, left. Picture: Getty
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (C) sits with members of her Cabinet, including Britain's Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, left. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images

 

In a blistering letter, Mrs May told Mr Williamson she no longer has confidence in him and attacked him for refusing to answer questions from Sir Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary.

The PM raged: “I put to you the latest information from the investigation, which provides compelling evidence suggesting your responsibility for the unauthorised disclosure.

“No other, credible version of events to explain this leak has been identified.”

In his response, Mr Williamson said: “I strenuously deny that I was in any way involved with this leak and I am confident that a thorough and formal inquiry would have vindicated my position.

“I appreciate you giving me the option to resign, but to resign would have been to accept that I, my civil servants, my military advisers or my staff were responsible — this was not the case.”

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May. Picture: AFP
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

 

 
Britain's Defence Minister Gavin Williamson. Picture: AP
Britain's Defence Minister Gavin Williamson. Picture: APSource:AP

 

A No10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has this evening asked Gavin Williamson to leave the Government, having lost confidence in his ability to serve in the role of Defence Secretary and as a member of her Cabinet.

“The Prime Minister’s decision has been informed by his conduct surrounding an investigation into the circumstances of the unauthorised disclosure of information from a meeting of the National Security Council.

“The Prime Minister thanks all members of the National Security Council for their full co-operation and candour during the investigation and considers the matter closed.”

The ex-minister said he would swear on his children’s lives that he was not the leaker, and blamed his sacking on a feud with the Cabinet Secretary.

Penny Mordaunt is replacing Mr Williamson as Defence Secretary — the first woman ever to hold the job.

She is a serving Navy reservist and top Brexiteer who was previously International Development Secretary and once took part in the reality TV show Splash!
 

UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson (R) and Australian Minister Marise Payne. Picture: Robert Perry
UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson (R) and Australian Minister Marise Payne. Picture: Robert PerrySource:News Corp Australia

 

Rory Stewart — the former tutor to Princes William and Harry — was promoted from Prisons Minister to take Ms Mordaunt’s place in charge of Britain’s £14 billion ($A26 billion) aid budget.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, commenting on Gavin Williamson’s departure as he arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, said: “On a personal level I’m very sorry about what happened for Gavin’s sake, but given the gravity of the situation there was no other alternative outcome.”

Lib Dem. boss Vince Cable called for a criminal probe into Mr Williamson’s behaviour over fears he has breached his duties under the Official Secrets Act.

He blasted: “This story cannot begin and end with dismissal from office.

“What is at stake is the capacity of our security services to give advice at the highest level.

“This must now be referred to the Metropolitan Police for a thorough criminal investigation into breaches of the Official Secrets Act.”

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson added: “If he has leaked from the National Security Council, Gavin Williamson should be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act. And he should forgo his ministerial severance pay.”
 

Britain's Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson. Picture: AFP
Britain's Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

 

Mr Williamson, 42, was the youngest Defence Secretary in history when he got the job in 2017 after Sir Michael Fallon resigned over the “Pestminster” scandal.

He was previously a major behind-the-scenes powerbroker as David Cameron’s parliamentary private secretary and then Chief Whip under Mrs May.

But after his promotion to the Cabinet he was widely mocked — especially when he said Russia should “go away and shut up” in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning last year.

This article originally appeared in The Sun and is republished here with permission

 

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 Keywords: UK, China

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