Crisis in Cabinet

Inquiry call as Williamson denies leaking Huawei plan

Sacked Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson last night insisted he was not responsible for leaking sensitive information from the National Security Council about plans to give Chinese telecoms giant Huawei a role in developing the UK’s 5G network.

Downing Street said it had “compelling evidence” indicating that Mr Williamson, Defence Secretary since 2017, disclosed details from the meeting to the Daily Telegraph.

Prime Minister Theresa May told him In a letter confirming his dismissal that: “No other, credible version of events to explain this leak has been identified.”

Mr Williamson, pictured, responded by saying: “I appreciate you offering me the option to resign, but 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.”

Opposition MPs said there should be an investigation into whether the Official Secrets Act had been breached and called for a police inquiry.

Mr Williamson, known for keeping a tarantula in his office, says he is the victim of a “vendetta” and a “kangaroo court” and that he “swore on his children’s lives” that he was innocent.

Liberal Democrats deputy leader Jo Swinson has written to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner calling for a criminal investigation “to ascertain whether the actions of Mr Williamson constitute a breach”.

While leaks from political meetings and papers are commonplace, the passing of sensitive security information is considered a more serious matter. The National Security Council allows for secret intelligence to be shared by GCHQ, MI6 and MI5 with ministers, all of whom have signed the Official Secrets Act.

Huawei’s role in the 5G network is controversial because of concerns about the risk of spying or sabotage which the company has rejected. No 10 said a final decision would be made at the end of spring.

Huawei was the only major smartphone manufacturer to increase its market share during the first quarter of 2019, defying industry-wide challenges to overtake Apple and close the gap on leader Samsung.

New figures form IDC suggest Huawei saw shipments rise by 50.3% year-on-year to 59.1 million units, giving the Chinese manufacturer a market share of 19%.

Samsung saw shipments fall by 8.1% to 71.9 million. The firm says sales of the flagship of the higher margin Galaxy S10 have been encouraging, but there has been less success in the mid-range segments This has affected market share which has slipped to 23.1%.

Meanwhile, Penny Mordaunt , international development secretary, has replaced Mr Williamson and becomes the UK’s first female Defence Secretary.

The daughter of a paratrooper, she was a naval reservist and served as an armed forces minister under David Cameron. She lost out on the top job when Mr Williamson replaced Michael Fallon in 2017. She was a high-profile campaigner for the Leave campaign during the 2016 EU referendum.

Before studying philosophy at Reading university, she worked as a magician’s assistant and she came to public attention for her appearance on ITV’s celebrity diving show Splash! to raise money for charity.

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