MPs demand Gavin Williamson faces criminal action for leaking details of secret Huawei meeting

Mr Williamson told the BBC that he was not the source of the leak and that neither he nor his team would do such a thing.

A defiant Gavin Williamson has launched an astonishing attack on Theresa May tonight after he was fired over the Huawei leak, saying she has made an enemy of an ally who had ‘kept her as PM’ in the past.

The sacked former defence secretary claimed the PM had ‘just sacked someone who is not guilty’ and in a blistering counter-attack said he had ‘dug her out of a few holes in the past.’ Before protesting his innocence and saying ‘I swear on my children’s lives that I’m innocent.’

His departure comes after an investigation revealed he was the source of information released from a top secret National Security Council meeting last week and subsequently published in a newspaper.

The leak of the Prime Minister’s controversial decision about Chinese telecoms firm Huawei’s involvement in the development of the UK’s 5G mobile network – made at a top-secret meeting of the NSC last week and leaked to the Daily Telegraph – also sparked a massive political row.

But in an interview with the Daily Mail, the 42-year-old was adamant that Mrs May had fired the wrong person and chastised her for having targeted him – despite his having had her back in the past.

Recalling his sacking, he said: ‘We sat down and she offered me the opportunity to resign and I said, ‘I can’t resign PM, because I haven’t leaked it and I would rather you sacked me than me to accept something I or my team have not done’.’

Mr Williamson told the BBC that he was not the source of the leak and that neither he nor his team would do such a thing.

Mr Williamson told the BBC that he was not the source of the leak and that neither he nor his team would do such a thing.

Huawei may have been a leak too far for gaff-prone minister nicknamed ‘Private Pike’

Williamson was nicknamed Private Pike after the youthful innocent Dad's Army character played by Ian Lavender (pictured above on a stamp issues last year to mark the sit-com's 50th anniversary)

Williamson was nicknamed Private Pike after the youthful innocent Dad’s Army character played by Ian Lavender (pictured above on a stamp issues last year to mark the sit-com’s 50th anniversary)

Gavin Williamson was promoted from the relative obscurity of the Tory whips team to take on one of the most senior political jobs in the country.

But his inexperience and proneness to gaffs saw the relatively youthful newcomer quickly labelled Private Pike – after the hapless teenage Dad’s Army character.

As a whip, he was best known in Westminster for keeping a pet tarantula named Cronus in a glass box on his desk, which is said to have provided added menace when dealing with errant MPs in his role as Mrs May’s enforcer.

As Defence Secretary, the 42-year-old MP for South Staffordshire – Theresa May’s campaign manager in her successful 2016 leadership bid – quickly became known for a tendency to put his foot in his mouth.

At the height of the furore over the Salisbury novichok attack in March 2018, Mr Williamson urged Russia to ‘go away and shut up’ – prompting derision from critics.

In December the previous year, he was accused of pursuing a policy that ‘belongs in a Netflix series’ after saying Islamist fighters should be hunted down and killed.

More recently, and perhaps more seriously, he was at the centre of a cabinet row in February as government sources blamed him for offending the Chinese and causing the cancellation of a crucial trade visit to Beijing by Chancellor Philip Hammond.

On that occasion, the then Defence Secretary had made a speech days before the mission in which he talked about sending a Royal Navy warship to the sensitive waters of the Indo Pacific, words that did not go down well in Beijing.

Some Westminster commentators speculated that some of the remarks that caused controversy were deliberately designed to boost his profile and his popular appeal with a view to boosting his chances of succeeding Mrs May as Tory leader.

He was also suspected being behind some of the anonymous briefings about Brexit developments with Cabinet, which were again seen as part of the jockeying for position in the Tory leadership race.

Although he has strenuously denied any involvement, Mr Williamson’s ambitions may have been holed below the waterline with his unceremonious sacking over the Huawei leak.

Making no attempt to hide his fury, he said: ‘I pointed out that I had saved her a couple of times, kept her as PM.’ Adding that it was ‘a shame she didn’t recognise the fact’.

Officials have not revealed what evidence they found to implicate Mr Williamson, who had been an outside contender to replace Theresa May as Tory leader when she steps down.

But his sacking leaves his political career in tatters and raises the question of whether he will face police action into his conduct in leaking details from a top secret meeting.

He has now been replaced by International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt – a Royal Navy reservist – who becomes the first ever female Defence Secretary. Rory Stewart steps up from Prisons Minister to take her former role.

Resigned to his fate, Mr Williamson noted how resilient Mrs May was to his pleas, telling her: ‘I have never leaked anything from the National Security Council, nor would I. I absolutely promise, hand on heart, I did not leak this.

‘I realise my obituary will say I did, but I swear on my children’s lives I did not.’

He pointed the finger at Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill claiming an investigation into the leak was rigged. Mr Williamson claimed Sir Mark ‘leaked information’ about him concerning a text message he had sent.

There have now been calls for Mr Williamson to face criminal action, with Labour deputy leader Tom Watson saying tonight: ‘If he has leaked from the National Security Council, Gavin Williamson should be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act. And he should forgo his ministerial severance pay.’

And Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable said: ‘This story cannot begin and end with dismissal from office.

‘What is at stake is the capacity of our security services to give advice at the highest level.

‘This must now be referred to the Metropolitan Police for a thorough criminal investigation into breaches of the Official Secrets Act.’

Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith also said tonight that she was ‘deeply disturbed’ that a member of the National Security Council could have leaked information. And that the police should become involved and a full investigation conducted.

Speaking to BBC’s Newsnight, she said: ‘Clearly there’s been a complete breakdown in discipline and Theresa May needs to take absolutely firm action, and quite frankly I think she needs to call in the police and have a full investigation because we are talking actually breaking the Official Secrets Act and there may be a case to answer here.’

Asked about the possibility of a prosecution, Theresa May’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: ‘It is not for the Government to determine prosecutions, but the Prime Minister has said, from her point of view, that she considers the matter to be closed.’

Scotland Yard said in a statement: ‘We’re aware of the media reports in relation to the leak and that is a matter for the National Security Council and the Cabinet Office to look at.

‘At this time, we’re not carrying out an investigation. Clearly if at any stage we receive any information that would suggest criminal offences have been committed, then we will look into that.’

Did phonecall to reporter damn Gavin Williamson?

Sources close to Williamson (pictured) revealed he had admitted to having a telephone conversation with Daily Telegraph Deputy Political Editor Steven Swinford

Sources close to Williamson (pictured) revealed he had admitted to having a telephone conversation with Daily Telegraph Deputy Political Editor Steven Swinford

Gavin Williamson has admitted to an 11-minute telephone conversation with a journalist on the day information from the National Security Council was leaked, it has been reported.

It is one of the first indications as to why the former defence secretary may have been sacked by Theresa May yesterday. He is alleged to have revealed secret NSC discussions about Chinese telecoms giant Huawei’s involvement in the development of the UK’s 5G mobile network.

Officials have not revealed what they found to implicate Mr Williamson, but in a letter to the South Staffordshire MP the Prime Minister Theresa May claimed ‘compelling evidence’ suggested he was responsible.

Gavin Williamson accused Sir Mark Sedwill (pictured in China in 2018) of deciding guilt before gathering evidence into the Huawei leak

Gavin Williamson accused Sir Mark Sedwill (pictured in China in 2018) of deciding guilt before gathering evidence into the Huawei leak

Sources close to Williamson last night revealed he had admitted to having a telephone conversation with Daily Telegraph Deputy Political Editor Steven Swinford after the National Security Council meeting last week, as reported by The Sun.

It was Mr Swinford who just hours later broke the news that Mrs May had reportedly given the green light to Huawei the help build Britain’s 5G network, a move which sparked a massive political row.

But Mr Williamson has insisted they talked about Brexit and the upcoming euro elections, according to reports, and not the recent NSC meeting, at which it is alleged discussions were had on allowing Huawei to work on the 5G network.

The 42-year-old has insisted he is innocent, and recounted to the Daily Mail what he told Mrs May: ‘I have never leaked anything from the National Security Council, nor would I.

‘I absolutely promise, hand on heart, I did not leak this. I realise my obituary will say I did, but I swear on my children’s lives I did not.’

Mrs May met Mr Williamson in her Commons office for half an hour after receiving a briefing on the leak inquiry in the early afternoon.

Mr Williamson revealed that he had turned down an offer from the PM for him to resign rather than be sacked.

He said that this would have implied that he accepted that either he or his team were responsible for the leak.

The Staffordshire South MP also hit back with a letter to the PM in which he cast doubt on the investigation conducted by Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill.

‘I strenuously deny that I was in any way involved in this leak and I am confident that a thorough and formal inquiry would have vindicated my position,’ he wrote.

Speaking to ITV outside Downing Street tonight new Cabinet minister Mr Stewart said: ‘Although I wasn’t privy to the internal investigation I have enormous confidence the national security adviser and the Prime Minister have followed the correct process and know what they are doing.’

The sacking of Gavin Williamson makes him the 38th person to have left the Government in just over 12 months, and the sixth Cabinet minister.

Announcing the sacking a Downing Street spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister has this evening asked Gavin Williamson to leave the Government, having lost confidence in his ability to serve in the role of Defence Secretary and as a member of her Cabinet.

‘The Prime Minister’s decision has been informed by his conduct surrounding an investigation into the circumstances of the unauthorised disclosure of information from a meeting of the National Security Council.

‘The Prime Minister thanks all members of the National Security Council for their full cooperation and candour during the investigation and considers the matter closed.’

Informing Mr Williamson of his dismissal, Mrs May said she was ‘concerned’ at the manner in which he had engaged with the inquiry.

‘It has been conducted fairly, with the full co-operation of other NSC attendees,’ she wrote.

‘They have all answered questions, engaged properly, provided as much information as possible to assist with the investigation, and encouraged their staff to do the same. Your conduct has not been of the same standard as others’.

‘In our meeting this evening, I put to you the latest information from the investigation, which provides compelling evidence suggesting your responsibility for the unauthorised disclosure. No other, credible version of events to explain this leak has been identified.’

The Prime Minister sacked Gavin Williamson tonight, setting out her reasons in a letter to the former minister

Mr Williamson later sent his own letter continuing to protest his innocence and revealing he refused to resign, saying it would have implied guilt

Mr Williamson later sent his own letter continuing to protest his innocence and revealing he refused to resign, saying it would have implied guilt

The leak claimed Theresa May had given the green light to the involvement of Huawei in ‘non core’ elements of the UK network.

Such a move risks the UK risks being cut out of the loop by American spies if it uses Huawei technology for its 5G mobile network, a senior US official later warned.

Robert Strayer, the deputy assistant secretary for cyber security at the State Department, said any involvement of the Chinese tech giant poses an ‘unacceptable risk’.

Describing the seriousness of the problem for the US Mr Strayer said today: ‘What we really have here is a loaded gun’.

And Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that Britain should be wary about embracing Chinese firms because they are legally obliged to help their country’s spies.

Williamson, the MP for South Staffordshire had been a vital part of Theresa May’s inner circle after being appointed as her chief whip when she took office in July 2016.

As a whip, he was best known in Westminster for keeping a pet tarantula named Cronus in a glass box on his desk, which is said to have provided added menace when dealing with errant MPs in his role as Mrs May’s enforcer.

As Defence Secretary, he quickly became known for a tendency to put his foot in his mouth.

Mr Williamson got his big break as parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to David Cameron from 2013-16 and was selected by Mrs May as her parliamentary campaign manager for the contest for the Conservative leadership triggered by Mr Cameron’s resignation following the Brexit referendum.

Elected to Parliament in 2010, Mr Williamson was swiftly appointed a PPS in the Northern Ireland Office in 2011 and then held a succession of ‘bag-carrier’ posts, acting as the eyes and ears in the House of Commons for ministers Hugo Swire, Owen Paterson and Patrick McLoughlin, before entering Number 10 as a member of Mr Cameron’s team.

Although unpaid, the role of PPS is seen as a useful staging post for a backbencher seeking ministerial office, but rarely have holders of the position been elevated quite as swiftly as Mr Williamson.

As he rose rapidly through the ranks, he was regarded as a right-hand man of Prime Minister May who remained by her side as other key allies fell by the wayside in the wake of her disastrous snap election.

As chief whip, he was prohibited from speaking in Parliament. The defence job gave him a much higher profile, but things did not go well.

Penny Mordaunt leaves the Ministry of Defence (left) after being appointed UK Secretary of State for Defence
She spoke to journalists soon after being given the position (right)

Penny Mordaunt leaves the Ministry of Defence (left) after being appointed UK Secretary of State for Defence. She spoke to journalists soon after being given the position (right)

Mr Williamson has been replaced by International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt (pictured outside the Ministry of Defence today) - a Royal Navy reservist - who becomes the first ever female Defence Secretary

Mr Williamson has been replaced by International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt (pictured outside the Ministry of Defence today) – a Royal Navy reservist – who becomes the first ever female Defence Secretary

At the height of the furore over the Salisbury novichok attack in March 2018, Mr Williamson urged Russia to ‘go away and shut up’ – prompting derision from critics.

In December the previous year, he was accused of pursuing a policy that ‘belongs in a Netflix series’ after saying Islamist fighters should be hunted down and killed.

More recently, and perhaps more seriously, he was at the centre of a cabinet row in February as government sources blamed him for offending the Chinese and causing the cancellation of a crucial trade visit to Beijing by Chancellor Philip Hammond.

On that occasion, the then Defence Secretary had made a speech days before the mission in which he talked about sending a Royal Navy warship to the sensitive waters of the Indo Pacific, words that did not go down well in Beijing.

Some Westminster commentators speculated that some of the remarks that caused controversy were deliberately designed to boost his profile and his popular appeal with a view to boosting his chances of succeeding Mrs May as Tory leader.

He was also suspected being behind some of the anonymous briefings about Brexit developments with Cabinet, which were again seen as part of the jockeying for position in the Tory leadership race.

Although he has strenuously denied any involvement, Mr Williamson’s ambitions may have been holed below the waterline with his unceremonious sacking over the Huawei leak.

Some of the UK’s closest allies have blocked Huawei from work on their own networks because of security concerns, some of which were reportedly raised by Cabinet ministers present at the NSC meeting about the firm’s involvement.

Yesterday Vodafone confirmed it found hidden vulnerabilities in network equipment supplied by Huawei a decade ago as the Chinese firm continues to protect its reputation.

The UK telecoms firm is said to have discovered the flaws between 2009 and 2012 in internet routers and other equipment used by its Italian business, according to Bloomberg.

The ‘hidden back doors’ could have allowed Huawei to access users’ home internet networks, the report claimed.

The NSC leaks to the Daily Telegraph triggered a Whitehall inquiry spearheaded by Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill to root out the culprit.

Ministers and aides were reportedly issued questionnaires requiring them to explain where they were in the hours following Tuesday’s NSC meeting.

The spotlight was on the five ministers who were said to have voiced objections to the Huawei decision – Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.

MPs were quick to link the leak to the manoeuvrings around the Tory leadership, with whoever was responsible hoping to burnish their credentials for being tough on China.

All five, however, have either publicly denied being the guilty party or let it be known through aides that they were not responsible.

Also present at the meeting were David Lidington, the Cabinet Office Minister and Mrs May’s de facto deputy, Chancellor Philip Hammond, Business Secretary Greg Clark and Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright.

Much of the anger around the leak from the NSC – where ministers are briefed by the heads of the intelligence agencies, MI5, MI6 and GCHQ – reflects concern among MPs and officials that it could damage intelligence-sharing with key partners such as the US.

Some MPs have called for the matter to be referred to the police or for MI5 investigators to be brought in, amid concerns that conventional Whitehall leak inquiries have a poor track record of finding the culprit.

Could Williamson now be JAILED? Calls for a police investigation into former Defence Secretary after Theresa May sacks him over national security leak

Gavin Williamson (pictured) has been sacked over the leaks

Gavin Williamson (pictured) has been sacked over the leaks

Calls for ex-Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson to be jailed have followed his sacking over leaking.

Theresa May fired him from her cabinet over a leak of information about Chinese mobile phone giant Huawei, which the government had green-lighted to build the UK’s 5G network despite experts’ security concerns.

Today’s dismissal for ‘the unauthorised disclusure’ of National Security Council information led to demands for a criminal investigation will follow.

Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watwon tweeted: ‘If he has leaked from the National Security Council, Gavin Williamson should be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act. And he should forgo his ministerial severance pay.’

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable demanded a probe into a breach of the Official Secrets Act.

‘This story cannot begin and end with dismissal from office,’ he said. ‘What is at stake is the capacity of our security services to give advice at the highest level.

‘This must now be referred to the Metropolitan Police for a thorough criminal investigation into breaches of the Official Secrets Act.’

Journalist Piers Morgan wrote on Twitter: ‘BREAKING: Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson sensationally sacked after being identified as Huawei leaker. Might he go to jail too? Very serious offence to disclose info from National Security Council.’

Mrs May made the announcement this afternoon following a high-profile probe into revelations released from a top secret meeting.

A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister has this evening asked Gavin Williamson to leave the Government, having lost confidence in his ability to serve in the role of Defence Secretary and as a member of her Cabinet.

‘The Prime Minister’s decision has been informed by his conduct surrounding an investigation into the circumstances of the unauthorised disclosure of information from a meeting of the National Security Council.

‘The Prime Minister thanks all members of the National Security Council for their full cooperation and candour during the investigation and considers the matter closed.’

Breaches of the Official Secrets Act carry a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

The leak concerned a top-secret meeting about the decision to approve a contract for Huawei last week, when details were given to the Daily Telegraph.

It claimed Theresa May had given the green light to the involvement of Huawei in ‘non core’ elements of the UK network.

An affair, tractors armed with guns and paintballing Spanish ships: How Gavin Williamson’s short tenure as defence secretary has been mired in controversy

Gavin Williamson was defence secretary for less than two years, but his tenure has been dogged by controversies including revelations of an affair shortly after his appointment.

The gaffe-prone 42-year-old took up the post in November 2, 2017 having served as the MP for South Staffordshire since the 2010 election. He was given the position following the resignation of Sir Michael Fallon over sexual harassment claims.

During his time in the post he earned a less-than-desirable reputation, regularly inviting the Captain Mainwaring response of ‘Stupid Boy!’. Having suggested ideas for defence including arming tractors with guns and paintballing Spanish ships.

Despite this he had been an outside contender to replace Theresa May as Tory leader when she eventually steps down. When he landed the defence job, he achieved the highly unusual distinction of being promoted directly into the Cabinet without having held a more junior ministerial job.

Gavin Williamson is seen in his first public appearance since being appointed as defence secretary in November, 2017. He is conducting the band of the Grenadier Guards at Waterloo Station in London

Gavin Williamson is seen in his first public appearance since being appointed as defence secretary in November, 2017. He is conducting the band of the Grenadier Guards at Waterloo Station in London

Williamson (pictured) earned a less-than-desirable reputation during his time in the role, regularly inviting the Captain Mainwaring response of 'Stupid Boy!'

Williamson (pictured) earned a less-than-desirable reputation during his time in the role, regularly inviting the Captain Mainwaring response of ‘Stupid Boy!’

Williamson (pictured during his time as an MP for South Staffordshire) even suggested during his tenure as defence secretary that tractors be armed with guns

Williamson (pictured during his time as an MP for South Staffordshire) even suggested during his tenure as defence secretary that tractors be armed with guns

He got his big break as parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to David Cameron from 2013-16 and was selected by Mrs May as her parliamentary campaign manager for the contest for the Conservative leadership triggered by Mr Cameron’s resignation following the Brexit referendum.

As he rose rapidly through the ranks, he was regarded as a right-hand man of Prime Minister May who remained by her side as other key allies fell by the wayside in the wake of her disastrous snap election.

But now his short stint in the role has come to a shocking end, after it was alleged that he was behind a highly controversial security leak about Chinese mobile phone giant Huawei last week.

The sacking leaves his political career in tatters and raises the question of whether he will face police action into his conduct in leaking details from a top secret meeting.

It is the latest in the strong of controversies the Scarborough born MP has faced. One of the first was that of an affair. Just months into his position as Defence Secretary, in January 2018 it was revealed by The Daily Mail that he had been engaged in an office romance with a former colleague.

Gavin Williamson is pictured with his wife Joanne Williamson. After revelations of an affair in January 2018, he stressed that his family is central to his life

Gavin Williamson is pictured with his wife Joanne Williamson. After revelations of an affair in January 2018, he stressed that his family is central to his life

He insisted the relationship had not gone beyond kissing ‘a couple of times’ and that she had forgiven him for the antics which took place in 2014. The couple have two daughters and he has stressed that his family is central to his life.

‘My family means everything to me and I almost threw it away… This incident nearly destroyed two marriages,’ he said at the time.

Just months later, in March 2018, he faced another controversy. Soon after the poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, Williamson was lambasted for saying: ‘Frankly, Russia should go away and should shut up.’

The remarks were widely ridiculed in both Russia and the UK, and he was later criticised for his use of informal language when dealing with sensitive topics.

It was an issue brought up by Richard Madeley on Good Morning Britain, but Williamson stonewalled the presenter so much he was cut off. Madeley told him: ‘Right, you’re not going to answer, are you? OK. All right, interview terminated because you won’t answer the question.’

In July 2018, Williamson became the first minister to be heckled by his own phone at the dispatch box in the House of Commons.

The Cabinet minister was making a statement on operations against ISIS in Syria when his voice triggered Siri on his mobile.

As Mr Williamson spoke, a disembodied voice could clearly be heard saying: ‘I’ve found something on the web about Syria. Syrian democratic forces supported by….’

Belatedly realising what was happening, Mr Williamson groped for the phone in his pocket to turn it off.

‘It is very rare that you are heckled by your own mobile phone,’ he joked nervously.

Soon after the poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, Williamson was lambasted for saying: 'Frankly, Russia should go away and should shut up'

Soon after the poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, Williamson was lambasted for saying: ‘Frankly, Russia should go away and should shut up’

In July 2018, Williamson became the first minister to be heckled by his own phone at the dispatch box in the House of Commons (pictured)

In July 2018, Williamson became the first minister to be heckled by his own phone at the dispatch box in the House of Commons (pictured)

Williamson has his own Instagram account, in which he posted images from both his role as Defence Secretary and from his private time

Williamson has his own Instagram account, in which he posted images from both his role as Defence Secretary and from his private time

Williamson has encountered problems on social media. In the same month he was appointed defence secretary, he accidentally revealed his classic Landrover - which he has proudly boasted about on Instagram - was untaxed

Williamson has encountered problems on social media. In the same month he was appointed defence secretary, he accidentally revealed his classic Landrover – which he has proudly boasted about on Instagram – was untaxed

It was certainly not that only time Williamson has encountered issues with his mobile phone in the House of Commons. He was chastised for flouting a ban on photography inside the chamber.

In September last year he posted images taken from inside the chamber on social media. They showed Theresa May statement about Brexit.

It was a move which later led to him being rebuked by parliamentary authorities.

Elsewhere on social media, Williamson has also encountered problems. In the same month he was appointed defence secretary, he accidentally revealed his classic Landrover – which he has proudly boasted about on Instagram – was untaxed.

Williamson was chastised for flouting a ban on photography inside the House of Commons last year. In September he posted images taken from inside the chamber on social media. They showed Theresa May statement about Brexit

Williamson was chastised for flouting a ban on photography inside the House of Commons last year. In September he posted images taken from inside the chamber on social media. They showed Theresa May statement about Brexit

Claiming the vehicle had a ‘go anywhere do anything attitude’, DVLA records revealed that road tax on the classic 1981 vehicle ran out at the end of October, 2017 and had not yet been renewed.

He later also wrote that the vehicle ‘epitomises everything that is so great about Great Britain’, having forgotten Land Rover has actually owned by India’s Tata Motors for years.

During his tenure, Williamson is also reported to have made a number of eccentric suggestions about how to use the defence budget effectively. The Sun revealed in August last year that he had proposed a series of ‘bizarre’ and outlandish ideas to bolster the UK’s military.

These included fitting guns to tractors and disguising defence systems as Coca-Cola lorries, the newspaper claimed.

The proposals sparked anger within the ranks of the military, who feared his strange demands could hamper chances of securing additional funds from the Treasury.

Much to the surprise of his staff, Williamson proposed another intriguing idea in January of this year suggesting paintballs be fired at Spanish ships to stop them trespassing in Gibraltar’s waters.

He made the suggestion off the back of a huge upsurge in Spanish vessels entering British waters off the Rock.

He even wanted to send a Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer to the Spanish territory of Ceuta on the Moroccan coast to deal with the growing Spanish threat.

In the same month he risked flushing his reputation down the pan in his battle with the Kremlin after visitors spotted a roll of lavatory paper adorned with Mr Putin’s face in his MoD office.

Mr Williamson, a former Chief Whip, caused consternation in Westminster even before his appointment as Defence Secretary.

He used to keep a tarantula called Cronus in his whip’s office – but it was barred from moving to the MoD because a member of his staff has arachnophobia.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson performs the cutting of the sod during a visit to RAF Lossiemouth where he launched construction of a new home for maritime patrol aircraft and boarded a P-8A maritime patrol aircraft

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson performs the cutting of the sod during a visit to RAF Lossiemouth where he launched construction of a new home for maritime patrol aircraft and boarded a P-8A maritime patrol aircraft

Williamson risked flushing his reputation down the pan in his battle with the Kremlin after visitors spotted a roll of lavatory paper adorned with Mr Putin’s face in his MoD office (stock image)

Williamson risked flushing his reputation down the pan in his battle with the Kremlin after visitors spotted a roll of lavatory paper adorned with Mr Putin’s face in his MoD office (stock image)

Prior to his appointment as Defence Secretary, Williamson served as an MP for South Staffordshire. He got his big break as parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to David Cameron from 2013-16
Williamson was selected by Mrs May as her parliamentary campaign manager for the contest for the Conservative leadership triggered by Mr Cameron's resignation following the Brexit referendum

Prior to his appointment as Defence Secretary, Williamson served as an MP for South Staffordshire. He got his big break as parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to David Cameron from 2013-16

Williamson's sacking leaves his political career in tatters and raises the question of whether he will face police action into his conduct in leaking details from a top secret meeting (he is pictured before being appointed to the role of defence secretary)

Williamson’s sacking leaves his political career in tatters and raises the question of whether he will face police action into his conduct in leaking details from a top secret meeting (he is pictured before being appointed to the role of defence secretary)

More recently, and perhaps more seriously, he was at the centre of a cabinet row in February as government sources blamed him for offending the Chinese and causing the cancellation of a crucial trade visit to Beijing by Chancellor Philip Hammond.

On that occasion, the then Defence Secretary had made a speech days before the mission in which he talked about sending a Royal Navy warship to the sensitive waters of the Indo Pacific, words that did not go down well in Beijing.

Some Westminster commentators speculated that some of the remarks that caused controversy were deliberately designed to boost his profile and his popular appeal with a view to boosting his chances of succeeding Mrs May as Tory leader.

But now his stint as Defence Secretary has come to a close after it was alleged today that he was behind a highly controversial security leak about Chinese mobile phone giant Huawei last week.

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