Theresa May has sacked defence secretary Gavin Williamson after a leak inquiry found “compelling evidence” that he was responsible for leaking details of the National Security Council meeting on Huawei.
Penny Mordaunt has been appointed as the first-ever woman defence secretary. Rory Stewart will replace her as international development secretary.
Speaking in the Commons on Thursday morning, Cabinet office minister David Lidington said the government would "cooperate fully" with the police if they decide to investigate. Labour and the Lib Dems called on the police to launch a probe to determine if a crime had been committed.
Williamson "strenuously" denied being responsible, saying that he swore on his children's lives that he was not the source of the story.
In an unprecedented letter to Williamson on Wednesday night, the prime minister said that an internal inquiry led by the Cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill had secured the “full cooperation” of the other attendees at the NSC meeting and that those interviewed answered questions and “engaged properly” with the probe.
“Your conduct has not been of the same standard as others,” May told Williamson.
In a meeting between Williamson and the PM on Wednesday afternoon, May presented the defence secretary with what she says was “compelling evidence” that he was behind the leak.
“No other credible version of events to explain the leak has been identified,” May said.
The leak inquiry was called after the Daily Telegraph newspaper published details of an NSC meeting in which May announced her decision to allow Chinese telecom firm Huawei to supply equipment for 5G mobile phone networks.
The decision to accept the Huawei 5G bid caused international controversy, with the United States warning that it would have to consider its intelligence-sharing partnership with nations that used Huawei in their 5G networks.
A Downing Street spokesperson 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 cooperation and candour during the investigation and considers the matter closed.”
Responding to the PM, Williamson denied that he was responsible for the leak:
Alex Wickham is a senior reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Alex Wickham at email@example.com.
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