SACKED Gavin Williamson could face two years in jail if successfully prosecuted for breaching the Official Secrets Act over the Huawei leak.
The axed Defence Secretary continued to strenuously deny he briefed a journalist about a National Security Council meeting in which fears were raised over the Chinese tech giant being allowed to help build Britain’s 5G network.
Mr Williamson could face two years in jail over the Huawei leak
He told The Sun: “I did not leak this and to my dying day I will keep on insisting that.”
Sky News reported he even “swore on his children’s life” he was not the source of the leak.
And he accused Theresa May of grandstanding, adding: “It’s the PM’s attempt at a show of strength.
“She can’t prove she’s strong on Brexit or the domestic agenda, so she has to do something like this.”
Downing Street last night said Mrs May, who sacked Williamson yesterday over “compelling evidence” he was behind the leak, was not seeking a criminal inquiry.
The PM’s spokesman said: “A criminal investigation is a matter for the police. The PM now believes the matter to be closed.”
But Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson said: “There should be a criminal inquiry. I don’t think he should evade investigation because he’s a high-profile politician.”
National row over Huawei danger to UK security
Ministers have been debating whether to allow controversial telecoms giant Huawei to help build new mobile phone networks in the UK.The Chinese electronics company, the world’s second-largest smartphone seller, wanted to supply “non core” elements of the new 5G network in the UK.
They are one of a handful of firms who have developed the next generation of high-speed internet.But it’s feared they could use their equipment to help carry out cyber attacks and even steal Brits’ identities.Several cabinet ministers think that it could harm our national security and Five Eyes alliance.A new law in the country requires all Chinese firms to assist with the state’s spy agencies.America has said the Chinese company is “untrustworthy” and threatened to stop sharing top-secret intelligence with us if we work with them.And New Zealand and Australia have placed extra restrictions on the use of the company’s equipment.In the UK, BT confirmed it is removing Huawei equipment from key areas of its 4G network after MI6 expressed concerns for national security. However, BT denied the move was anything to do with security concerns.
A string of senior MPs said the risk of Chinese espionage was too high, and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said there must be a “degree of caution” because Chinese firms are forced by law to work with their intelligence services.Gavin Williamson was one of the senior ministers who was opposed to letting them help.Yesterday it was revealed that security flaws were discovered in internet gear equipment, adding to concerns about security fears.The Government has said it’s confident there will be no risk of China being able to spy on the UK.
Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson said she was writing to the Met to formally request a criminal inquiry.
Sources said the PM called Williamson to a 5pm meeting yesterday and accused him of refusing to cooperate fully with a leak inquiry.
She confronted him with the “latest information” from the investigation by Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill and asked him if he wanted to resign.
Theresa May’s letter
He refused and protested his innocence. She then sacked him.
It is believed Mrs May presented Mr Williamson with mobile phone data that proved he spoke to a Daily Telegraph journalist after the National Security Council meeting on Tuesday last week — hours before the Huawei story broke.
There was also speculation that Williamson refused to hand over his mobile for examination to the leak inquiry.
Full text of Theresa May’s letter to Gavin Williamson
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.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 NSC. 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.
In a formal letter the PM 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 disclosure.
“No other, credible version of events to explain this leak has been identified.”
Williamson, MP for South Staffordshire, issued his own letter denying the allegation.
Mr Williamson’s departure is a stunning fall from grace as he was one of Ms May’s closest allies and a key player in her leadership campaign
He later insisted: “I would love to prove my innocence. But it is so difficult to prove a negative and journalists can never reveal their sources, can they? I refused to resign. That would make me look like I’m culpable.
“But that’s the game and I accept it. I am just proud I got the chance to do everything I could for the Armed Forces.”
Sources close to Williamson accused Sir Mark of being behind the sacking. The two men have had a long-running feud over defence resources.
PRIVATE PIKE’S GAFFES
Gavin Williamson was nicknamed Private Pike after the hapless Dad’s Army character during gaffe-laden tenure as Defence Secretary.In March last year, in the wake of the novichok poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, Williamson said: “Frankly, Russia should go away and should shut up.”Williamson was later cut off mid-interview by GMB presenter Richard Madeley when he repeatedly refused to answer questions about whether the statement was “too informal”.After the former defence chief continued to stonewall Madeley, he interrupted and said: “Interview terminated because you won’t answer the question.”In July, Williamson was left red-faced in the House of Commons after he was “heckled” by his own mobile phone as he gave an update on the war against ISIS.His iPhone’s Siri feature butted in to his speech to MPs and said: “I’ve found something on the web about Syrian democratic forces supported by.”Williamson also got into hot water with No10 for posting pictures on social media of Theresa May making a statement about Brexit in the Commons.The snap, shared on Instagram, breached rules about photography in Parliament.Other gaffes include when he suggested firing paintballs at Spanish ships to stop them from trespassing in Gibraltar’s waters.Williamson also proposed to mounting guns on tractors and turning them into mobile missile launchers to save spending defence budget money.Another suggestion was to buy second-hand ferries and convert them into beach assault craft.A source told The Sun: “The man is out of his mind. No one knows what to do.”
No10 denied Williamson had been “stitched up” and said of the leak inquiry: “It was conducted rigorously and impartially and in the manner you would expect.”
Asked if Williamson committed a criminal offence, Mrs May’s senior aide would say only: “I don’t think that’s something I can or would discuss.”
One Tory MP said MI5 and GCHQ were called in to establish what Williamson told the journalist.
Sources close to Williamson last night said he admitted to the leak inquiry having an 11-minute phone conversation with Daily Telegraph Deputy Political Editor Steven Swinford after the National Security Council meeting.
But Williamson said they had talked about Brexit and the upcoming euro elections.