British politics has plunged into another crisis after Prime Minister Theresa May sacked her Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson for leaking confidential information from a top-level National Security Council meeting to the media. Williamson has sworn by his children stating that he did not leak the information.
In her letter to Williamson, May wrote, “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.”
She added, “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.”
The need for an inquiry into the leak was necessitated after the Daily Telegraph reported on a plan by the British government to allow Huawei limited access to help build the UK’s new 5G network. The paper, according to the BBC, also reported that the decision to have Huawei as a partner led to subsequent warnings within the cabinet about possible risks to national security over a deal with the Chinese company.
While Williamson had indeed met the Daily Telegraph’s deputy political editor, Steven Swinford, but experts say that this did not conclusively prove that he leaked the story.
The British National Security Council consists of senior cabinet ministers with its weekly meetings being chaired by the prime minister, 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.
Williamson was given the option to resign from the cabinet, but he refused saying that this would mean acceptance of the crime that he did not commit. He wrote, “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.”
— Gavin Williamson MP (@GavinWilliamson) May 1, 2019
Although, Williamson has resigned, several politicians have now demanded a thorough police probe to ascertain if the former Defence Secretary violated the Official Secrets Act.
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson and former National Security Adviser Lord Rickets have called for a police inquiry to investigate whether or not Williamson breached the Official Secrets Act.
The police, for its part, has made it clear that it was not carrying out any investigation into the allegations against Williamson.