May fires Defence Minister over leaks, Latest World News - The New Paper

May fires Defence Minister over leaks

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'Compelling evidence' that Williamson was responsible for Huawei leaks

LONDON British Prime Minister Theresa May fired her defence minister on Wednesday over a leak of discussions in the National Security Council about Chinese telecoms company Huawei, the latest of her allies to be ousted from government.

The sudden dismissal of Mr Gavin Williamson, who "strenuously" denied involvement in the leak, was another blow for Mrs May, whose own premiership hangs by a thread after her failure so far to usher Britain smoothly out of the European Union.

The firing also underlined how seriously her team treated the leak from the National Security Council, which discusses Britain's national security, intelligence coordination and defence strategy, and involves only certain ministers from her Cabinet to keep its talks as secret as possible.

That secrecy was broken last month when the Telegraph newspaper reported Britain would allow Huawei a role in building parts of its 5G network, setting London at odds with Washington over the next generation of communications technology.

Sources were forced to say that the role would be limited.

In a letter to Mr Williamson, Mrs May wrote that an investigation into the leaks had provided "compelling evidence suggesting your responsibility for the unauthorised disclosure".

"No other, credible version of events to explain this leak has been identified," she added, after putting the "latest information from the investigation" to Mr Williamson earlier on Wednesday.


Mr Williamson denied responsibility.

He said: "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."

Mrs May appointed International Development Minister Penny Mordaunt to succeed Mr Williamson as Defence Secretary, and named Prisons Minister Rory Stewart to Ms Mordaunt's former role.

Ms Mordaunt will be Britain's first woman Defence Minister.

Mrs May has overseen several departures in her cabinet, with many quitting rather than being pushed.

For some in the Conservative Party, Mr Williamson was an odd choice for defence minister after his predecessor, Mr Michael Fallon, quit in a sexual harassment scandal in 2017.

Many in the Conservative Party felt his promotion to defence minister was little more than a prize for his role as whip, which included brokering a deal with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party to prop up Mrs May's government.