Hunt: Cabinet leaks undermining Brexit
He raps disloyal Tories for making leaving the EU ‘harder to deliver’
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’