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Defence Minister Sacked Over Huawei Leak

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Britain's Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson (Xinhua/Ye Pingfan/IANS)

Downing Street said Prime Minister Theresa May had “lost confidence in his ability to serve” and Penny Mordaunt will take on the role

Gavin Williamson (Xinhua/Ye Pingfan/IANS)

British Defence Minister Gavin Williamson has been sacked following an inquiry into a leak from a top-level National Security Council meeting.

Downing Street said Prime Minister Theresa May had “lost confidence in his ability to serve” and Penny Mordaunt will take on the role. The inquiry followed reports over a plan to allow Huawei limited access to help build the UK’s new 5G network.

Mr Williamson, who has been defence secretary since 2017, continues to deny leaking the information, BBC reported.

In a meeting with Mr Williamson on Wednesday evening, Theresa May told him she had information that provided “compelling evidence” that he was responsible for the unauthorised disclosure.

In a letter confirming his dismissal, she said: “No other, credible version of events to explain this leak has been identified.”

The inquiry into the National Security Council leak began after a Daily Telegraph report on the Huawei decision and subsequent warnings within cabinet about possible risks to national security over a deal with Huawei.

Exercise Saif Sareea 3 by SAC Will Drummee RAF.
Gavin Williamson on board a Challenger MKII tank following the Exercise Saif Sareea 3 firepower demonstration. (Crown copyright)

The National Security Council (NSC) is made up of senior cabinet ministers and its weekly meetings are chaired by the prime minister, with other ministers, officials and senior figures from the armed forces and intelligence agencies invited when needed. It is a forum where secret intelligence can be shared by GCHQ, MI6 and MI5 with ministers, all of whom have signed the Official Secrets Act.

There has been no formal confirmation of Huawei’s role in the 5G network and No 10 said a final decision would be made at the end of spring.

Huawei has denied there is any risk of spying or sabotage, or that it is controlled by the Chinese government.

FOLLOWING IS THE LETTER FROM NO: 10

“Dear Gavin,

Thank you for your time this evening. We discussed the investigation into the unauthorised disclosure of information from the National Security Council meeting on 23 April.

This is an extremely serious matter, and a deeply disappointing one.

It is vital for the operation of good government and for the UK’s national interest in some of the most sensitive and important areas that the members of the NSC – from our Armed Forces, our Security and Intelligence Agencies, and the most senior level of government – are able to have frank and detailed discussions in full confidence that the advice and analysis provided is not discussed or divulged beyond that trusted environment.

BELGIUM-BRUSSELS-EU-SUMMIT-BREXIT by .
British Prime Minister Theresa May

That is why I commissioned the cabinet secretary to establish an investigation into the unprecedented leak from the NSC meeting last week, and why I expected everyone connected to it – ministers and officials alike – to comply with it fully. You undertook to do so.

I am therefore concerned by the manner in which you have engaged with this investigation.

It has been conducted fairly, with the full co-operation of other NSC attendees.

They have all answered questions, engaged properly, provided as much information as possible to assist with the investigation, and encouraged their staff to do the same. Your conduct has not been of the same standard as others.

In our meeting this evening, 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.

It is vital that I have full confidence in the members of my cabinet and of the National Security Council. The gravity of this issue alone, and its ramifications for the operation of the NSC and the UK’s national interest, warrants the serious steps we have taken, and an equally serious response.

It is therefore with great sadness that I have concluded that I can no longer have full confidence in you as secretary of state for defence and a minister in my cabinet and asked you to leave Her Majesty’s government.

As you do so, I would like to thank you for the wider contribution you have made to it over the last three years, and for your unquestionable personal commitment to the men and women of our Armed Forces.”

 

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