Senior ministers deny being source of Huawei leak as top civil servant launches inquiry

Posted On: 
26th April 2019

Senior ministers have denied being behind the leak of information from a top-security meeting amid calls for a criminal probe to be launched.

It emerged this week that the Government is poised to allow Huawei to provide "non-core" technology for the upcoming 5G mobile network.
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Sir Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary, has set up a formal investigation into how Theresa May's plans to give Chinese firm Huawei a role in the development of the UK's 5G network ended up being reported by the Telegraph.

The decision was revealed at a meeting of the National Security Council - which is made up of senior Cabinet ministers and spy chiefs - earlier this week.

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Sir Mark has written to all of the ministers who sit on the NSC demanding that they fully co-operate with his inquiry, while Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright told MPs he could not "exclude the possibility of a criminal investigation" into the breach.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was the first minister who sits on the NSC to deny any involvement in the leak.

He said: "I do think it's utterly appalling that that should happen - it's a really, really bad thing for decision-making in government.

"I have never leaked confidential Cabinet documents and I never will, but I do think it is a very, very bad day for our democracy when that happens."

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the leak was "completely unaccpetable", while sources close to fellow Cabinet members Gavin Williamson, Liam Fox and Penny Mordaunt have also denied any involvement.

Former Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon urged Downing Street to call in the police.

He said: "“That would involve a proper Scotland Yard investigation of all those who attended the meetings, all those who have mobile phones, whether they contacted journalists after the meeting. All those involved should be investigated now to find out who this leaker is."

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister is clear that protection of information on matters of national security is of the highest importance."

Speaking to the BBC, former head of the civil service Gus O'Donnell, who helped establish the NSC, described the leak as "very, very serious...an outrage".

Mr O'Donnell said it was crucial security officials had confidence that sensitive briefings they gave to ministers would not be leaked as he warned email and phone records could be checked as part of the inquiry.

"There are various things you can do - you have to do everything within the law. I've been inquiries where we've looked at mobile phone records, email records and the like."

"I used to say when you come into the NSC you leave the politics at the door.. and your mobile phones," he added.

According to the Telegraph, 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.

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”.

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.