Gavin Williamson will not face police investigation over Huawei leak, Government confirms

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

Gavin Williamson will not face a formal police investigation over his alleged role in the Huawei leak, the Government has confirmed.

The former Defence Secretary, who was unceremoniously sacked from his role by Theresa May on Wednesday, insisted he would be exonerated by any probe.

But the Government said during an urgent question in the Commons this morning that the Prime Minister considers the matter “closed”.

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington told the Commons: "The unauthorised disclosure of any information from Government is serious and especially so from the National Security Council.

"The Prime Minister has said she now considers that this matter has been closed and the Cabinet Secretary does not consider it necessary to refer it to the police, but we would of course cooperate fully should the police themselves consider that an investigation were necessary."

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick also said Scotland Yard would not consider a criminal investigation unless it was formally referred to them by the Cabinet Office.

Gavin Williamson said a police investigation into the Huawei leak would exonerate him (Getty)

Mr Lidington’s answers did nothing to quell growing demands from opposition parties to have the matter formally investigated.

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said: "In response to receiving the most brutal sacking I can think of (Gavin Williamson) has protested his innocence. Therefore this matter cannot be, as the Prime Minister says, closed.

"The essential point here is the Prime Minister has sacked the Secretary of State for Defence because she believes there is compelling evidence that he has committed a crime. But despite that, she does not believe he should face a criminal investigation - where is the justice in that?

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"In what world is it acceptable that the Prime Minister should be the arbiter of whether a politician she believes is guilty of criminal conduct in office should face a criminal investigation?"

Mr Watson asked Mr Lidington to confirm there were no leaks from the leak inquiry before raising questions about whether Huawei should be allowed to be part of the UK's critical infrastructure network, and the concerns raised by intelligence allies.

Mr Lidington said: "The problem about this particular case was not so much the question of the material that was disclosed, but the forum from which the leak came - and it was to maintain the integrity and secrecy essential for the proper conduct of the business of the Government of the United Kingdom, whichever party happens to be in office, that caused the Prime Minister to set up the inquiry and to take the decisions that she took yesterday."

Theresa Mays aid the inquiry had found "compelling evidence" suggesting Mr Williamson was to blame for the leak (PA)

He added as far as he was aware the leak inquiry took place "on the basis of confidentiality throughout its proceedings".

The SNP's defence spokesman Stuart McDonald said it was "not in the Prime Minister's gift" to say this "most disgraceful episode" is closed.

He added: "The fact we are here today shows that it is far from closed."

Mr McDonald asked: "What was Mr Williamson avoiding answering?", and asked what further action would be taken beyond his sacking.

Responding, Mr Lidington said he would not comment beyond what the Prime Minister wrote in her letter to the former defence secretary.

He added: "Whether a criminal offence has been committed is a matter for independent prosecution authorities and ultimately for the courts."

Labour led calls for detectives to investigate if a breach of the Official Secrets Act was committed when details of a highly sensitive National Security Council (NSC) discussion on Chinese telecoms giant Huawei were leaked to a newspaper.

But Mr Williamson strenuously denied either he or anyone on his team was behind the leak and insisted he had fully complied with the probe.

He told The Times: ”I volunteered everything up. I couldn't have volunteered more information on the whole thing.

"Frankly I'd rather have had a police inquiry, because the beauty of a police inquiry is I'd have been absolutely exonerated and would have been in the clear.”

Mr Williamson's abrupt firing as head of the Ministry of Defence sent shockwaves around Westminster (PA)
The sacking centres around details of a highly sensitive National Security Council discussion on Chinese telecoms giant Huawei that were leaked (Getty)

‘Completely screwed’

Mr Williamson's abrupt firing as head of the Ministry of Defence sent shockwaves around Westminster on Wednesday after Theresa May said the inquiry had found "compelling evidence" suggesting he was to blame.

The PM also said she was "concerned" at the manner in which he had engaged with the inquiry by Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill.

But Mr Williamson strenuously denied either he or anyone on his team was behind the leak and insisted he had fully complied with the probe.

The Prime Minister set out her reasons for sacking Mr Williamson in her letter (PA)
Mr Williamson's letter stated that he did not accept responsibility for the leak (PA)

In a letter, Mr Williamson also revealed that he rejected an offer from Mrs May to resign rather than be sacked, saying that this would have sent a signal that he accepted either he or his team was guilty.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, the paper which first reported the leak, the former minister said he had been "completely screwed”.

"She has got the wrong person and the person who did leak this is still out there," he said.

Mr Williamson meets personnel from 663 Squadron of 3 Regiment Army Air Corps at Wattisham Airfield in Suffolk (PA)

Meteoric rise

South Staffordshire MP Mr Williamson, 42, was a surprise appointment as defence secretary in November 2017 after a meteoric rise which saw him enter the Cabinet without ever having served in a junior ministerial role.

He was one of Mrs May's closest allies after she made him chief whip on entering Downing Street in 2016.

But during his time in the Cabinet, he showed increasing signs of independence from the PM and was widely regarded as preparing for a leadership bid when Mrs May stands down.

The PM's dramatic firing of her one-time close ally came on the eve of local elections across England and Northern Ireland on Thursday.

The firing saw another Cabinet reshuffle that made Penny Mordaunt Defence Secretary, the first female to occupy the role, and prisons minister Rory Stewart replacing Ms Mordaunt as International Development Secretary.

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