EXCL Theresa May’s top official launches leak inquiry after Huawei 5G decision revealed
Theresa May’s most senior national security adviser has launched an inquiry after details of a top secret meeting on Chinese firm Huawei’s role in the UK’s 5G network were leaked, PoliticsHome has learned.
Sir Mark Sedwill - who also serves as Cabinet Secretary - triggered the Whitehall probe amid mounting anger that information from a National Security Council meeting on the telecoms giant found its way into the press.
A Whitehall source told PoliticsHome that the inquiry was launched on Thursday alongside a “strongly-worded” letter to members of the NSC - a body made up of ministers and top intelligence officials whose discussions are meant to be kept private.
The Cabinet Office said it would not comment on any leak inquiry.
The move came after Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said the Government could not "exclude the possibility of a criminal investigation" into the breach.
It emerged earlier this week that the Government is poised to allow Huawei to provide "non-core" technology for the upcoming mobile network - despite a raft of security concerns among the UK's allies about the firm.
Several Cabinet ministers, including Conservative leadership hopefuls Gavin Williamson, Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt, were said to have raised their objections at the meeting.
Responding to an urgent question in the Commons, Mr Wright said: "We cannot exclude the possibility of a criminal investigation here and everyone will want to take seriously that suggestion."
He told MPs that members of the intelligence services needed to know that ministers would "treat seriously and keep private" any advice they had given.
"That is why this is serious, and that is why the government intends to treat it seriously," he added.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday morning, the Prime Minister's official spokesperson declined to say whether an inquiry had been launched into the leak.
But they said: "The Prime Minister is clear that protection of information on matters of national security is of the highest importance."
Labour has also slammed the leak of sensitive information, with shadow minister Jo Platt telling MPs: "If a Minister did leak this information they are not fit to serve in the cabinet and they are certainly not fit to be Prime Minister. Critical issues of national security should be handled with utmost care, not used as political ammunition in a Tory Party civil war."
The inquiry came as Mrs May faced growing anger over the Huawei decision itself.
The US has all-but banned the telecoms firm from its own infrastructure amid concerns it is linked to the Chinese state - and Rob Joyce, a senior adviser at the US National Security Agency, said the British move could hand Beijing a “loaded gun”.
He told the Financial Times: "We have got to understand all the details of that and decide what that means.
"What we will be insistent on is UK decisions can’t put our information at risk but the good news is that the UK already understands that."
Conservative MP Bob Seeley warned: "If you nest a dragon in critical infrastructure, even if it’s a sleeping dragon, you still have a risk built in."
But Jerry Wang, chief executive of Huawei UK, said objections to the firm in the US were "not based on security concerns, but a barely concealed protectionist trade agenda".
The company has long denied links to the Chinese state and pointed out that its technology is already used in the 4G network.