Saturday, 4 May 2019

Gavin Williamson MP and the NSC / Huawei leak - No.2

The Prime Minister and the Cabinet Office appeared to be hoping to draw a line under the dismissal of the Secretary of State for Defence - Rt. Hon. Gavin Williamson MP - see previous post 2 May 2019.  Things may not necessarily work out that way.

1.  A letter (dated 2 May) from Mr Tom Watson (Labour) to the Prime Minister requests that information gathered by the inquiry into the leak is passed to the Metropolitan Police.  Watson argues that - "It is not for the ministers or civil servants in the Cabinet Office to determine whether the information they have gathered meets the threshold for a criminal investigation.  Public interest dictates that it is the Police and CPS that must make this assessment."

2.  A statement from Assistant Commissioner Neil Baku of the Metropolitan Police states -

"I have considered all the information available to me and I have taken legal advice. I am satisfied that the disclosure did not amount to a criminal offence, either under the Official Secrets Act or Misconduct in a Public Office. No crime has been committed and this is not a matter for the police."

3.  A letter (dated 30 April) from Rt. Hon. Dame Margaret Beckett MP (Chair of the Joint Committee on National Security Strategy) to Sir Mark Sedwill states - "the Committee notes your ongoing inquiry into the leak of the National Security Council's decision on the use of Huawei in the UK's 5G telecommunications network. As this directly pertains to our work in scrutinising the NSC, the Committee would like to be apprised of the outcomes of this leak inquiry once it is complete.

The letter may be read via the Committee's Website

4.  Sky News reports that  Gavin Williamson said - "With the Metropolitan Police not willing to do an criminal investigation, it is clear a proper, full and impartial investigation needs to be conducted on this shabby and discredited witch hunt that has been so badly mishandled by both the prime minister and (senior civil servant) Mark Sedwill" - Sacked Gavin Williamson accuses PM of 'shabby and discredited witch hunt'   Further, the Sky News report states that Mr Williamson has asked for a copy of the report that led to his dismissal.

In an interview with Sky News Political Editor Beth Rigby, the Prime Minister said that -

"This was an inquiry that was properly conducted, it was conducted in the way that one would expect an inquiry of this sort to be conducted."   The PM added - "As a result, I took the decision that it was necessary for the then secretary of state for defence to leave his post."

We know almost nothing about this inquiry other than the fact that it was instigated by the Prime Minister who asked Sir Mark Sedwill to establish the inquiry.  It clearly worked quickly and reported back to the PM.  It is understood that those who attended the National Security Council meeting were investigated and that moble phones were examined.  Who conducted the questioning and phone examination is not known.

The inquiry has the appearance of a process lacking any modern standards of impartiality and procedural fairness.  Can it truly be said that the investigation is seen to have met such standards?  It is important that justice not only be done but be seen to be done.

A fundamental constitutional fact remains.  It is open to the Prime Minister to remove any Minister in whom confidence has been lost.  This is the basis stated by the PM for the dismissal.

It is open to Mr Williamson to make a statement in the House of Commons.  It is not yet clear whether he will do so.

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