Hunt: Cabi­net leaks un­der­min­ing Brexit

He raps dis­loyal Tories for mak­ing leav­ing the EU ‘harder to de­liver’

Daily Mail - - News - From Jack Doyle As­so­ciate Edi­tor in Ethiopia

JEREMY Hunt last night crit­i­cised Cabi­net col­leagues for dam­ag­ing leaks which he warned had un­der­mined Brexit.

Back­ing Theresa May’s de­ci­sion to sack De­fence Sec­re­tary Gavin Wil­liamson over the Huawei leak, the For­eign Sec­re­tary said no Premier could have a min­is­ter at the ta­ble she did not have con­fi­dence in.

He also de­fended Cabi­net Sec­re­tary Sir Mark Sed­will against Mr Wil­liamson’s crit­i­cism of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, call­ing him a ‘ man of ut­most in­tegrity’. Mr Hunt in­sisted it was right the Huawei leak was treated dif­fer­ently be­cause it had been from the ‘in­ner sanc­tum’ of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil which dis­cusses highly-clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion.

He was speak­ing to re­porters in the Ethiopian cap­i­tal Ad­dis Ababa dur­ing a five-day tour of the coun­try.

On Brexit, he said leaks had ‘made it harder to de­liver what we are try­ing to achieve and, of course, it dam­ages trust.’ Mr Hunt ex­plained: ‘When we are faced with very dif­fi­cult judg­ment calls on Brexit is­sues, it is ob­vi­ously of great ben­e­fit to the coun­try if ev­ery­one can dis­cuss them freely with­out hav­ing to think how de­ci­sions will be leaked af­ter­wards.

‘So I am hop­ing this will be a mo­ment of change for how the whole ma­chin­ery of Govern­ment works. Our sys­tem de­pends on cer­tain con­ven­tions and what seems to have hap­pened in the past year is that leak­ing has moved from the ex­cep­tion to the norm.’

Mr Hunt was asked whether he be­lieved Mr Wil­liamson’s de­nials. He stressed: ‘It is not for me to com­ment since I have not seen the ev­i­dence but what mat­ters is the Prime Min­ster has seen the ev­i­dence and she be­lieves he was re­spon­si­ble.

‘In that sit­u­a­tion no prime min­is­ter can have that min­is­ter sit­ting around the ta­ble be­cause she has to have ab­so­lute con­fi­dence that ev­ery­thing that is said will re­main con­fi­den­tial.’

He also said leaks from Cabi­net un­der­mined trust be­tween min­is­ters and made it harder for them to say what they re­ally thought in meet­ings.

The For­eign Sec­re­tary ar­gued that Mr Wil­liamson’s sack­ing should be a turn­ing point and it was up to Cabi­net mem­bers to be­have ‘re­spon­si­bly’ with the power they have.

Yes­ter­day morn­ing Mr Hunt made a speech de­fend­ing Press free­dom at the African Union. He said the Bri­tish me­dia had ev­ery right to re­port leaks in­clud­ing from the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

He added: ‘That is what hap­pens in a free Press. That doesn’t mean Govern­ment of­fi­cials or in­deed Cabi­net min­is­ters have the right to leak top-se­cret in­for­ma­tion.

‘But should you have the right to re­port it? Yes.’

Mr Hunt added: ‘I am sur­prised that any­one would leak the con­tents of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. But I am not sur­prised the Cabi­net Sec­re­tary treated this leak in a very, very dif­fer­ent way be­cause this is an in­ner sanc­tum when it comes to the de­fence and se­cu­rity of the coun­try.’

‘It is a rel­a­tively unique body set up by David Cameron with the head of MI5, the head of MI6, the head of GCHQ, the Cabi­net Sec­re­tary and politi­cians all sit­ting round the ta­ble and it is an in­cred­i­ble pow­er­ful and im­por­tant fo­rum but ob­vi­ously very highly clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion is dis­cussed on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.’

‘It is an in­cred­i­bly dis­ap­point­ing fea­ture of the last year that leak­ing from Cabi­net has be­come the norm.

‘I per­son­ally think the way Cabi­net govern­ment has to work is to­tal hon­esty in pri­vate and to­tal loy­alty in pub­lic. You have to have that el­e­ment of trust and in the last year that has changed and I think it is highly re­gret­table be­cause it means ev­ery­one that sits around the Cabi­net ta­ble has to be care­ful about how com­ments they might make might be spun sub­se­quently.’

He in­sisted: ‘I hope this in­ci­dent will cause ev­ery­one to re­flect on that kind of leak­ing. Full stop.’

‘PM had to sack Wil­liamson’

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