On May 1st, British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson was fired from his position over an alleged leak of a key decision from a UK National Security Council meeting to Chinese telecom giant Huawei.
Downing Street said Prime Minister Theresa May had “lost confidence in his ability to serve” and Penny Mordaunt will take on the role.
Secretary of State for International Development Rory Stewart has been confirmed as the new international development secretary, taking over from Mordaunt. Stewart said he believed the prime minister and national security adviser had “made the right decision” in sacking Williamson.
Theresa May released a letter to Williamson, releasing him from his post. According to it, on May 1st the two discussed the “unauthorized disclosure of information from the National Security Council meeting on April 23rd.”
“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.”
All those interrogated answered their questions and it was deemed that the former Defense Secretary bore responsibility for the leak.
“No other credible version of events to explain this leak has been identified.”
She concluded by saying that full confidence in all cabinet members was mandatory.
“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.”
— Gavin Williamson MP (@GavinWilliamson) May 1, 2019
Gavin Williamson denied the allegations and said that he believed that he wasn’t responsible for the leaks.
“I am sorry that you feel recent leaks from the National Security Council originated in my department. I emphatically believe this was not the case. I strenuously deny that I was in any way involved in this leak and I am confident that a thorough and formal inquiry would have vindicated my position.
I have always trusted my civil servants, military advisers and staff. I believe the assurances they have given me.”
He said that he had been given the option to resign, but doing so would mean that the people beneath him were responsible and he rejected that the situation was such.
The inquiry into the National Security Council leak began after the Daily Telegraph reported on the Huawei decision and subsequent warnings within cabinet about possible risks to national security over a deal with Huawei.
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.
Huawei’s participation in the UK’s 5G network establishment is yet to be confirmed and the US is a staunch opposer of the EU using the Chinese Telecom’s services. Downing Street said a final decision would be made at the end of spring. Huawei denied there is any risk of spying or sabotage, or that it is controlled by the Chinese government.