Penny Mordaunt appointed first female Defence Secretary after Gavin Williamson sacked in Huawei leak

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has been appointed the first female Defence Secretary following Gavin Williamson’s sacking over a Huawei leak.

Minister of State Rory Stewart – a former Foreign Officer adviser and travel writer – will take on Ms Mordaunt’s former role.

Mr Williamson was sacked after Prime Minister Theresa May discovered he was the source of a highly controversial leak about Chinese mobile phone giant Huawei.

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

Late this afternoon, Ms Mordaunt was appointed to the senior role – considered a like-for-like change in terms of Brexit negotiations – she and Mr Williamson are Brexiteers. 

Penny Mordaunt arriving at Downing Street, she has replaced Gavin Williamson as the Defence Secretary

Penny Mordaunt arriving at Downing Street, she has replaced Gavin Williamson as the Defence Secretary

Penny Mordaunt arriving at Downing Street, she has replaced Gavin Williamson as the Defence Secretary

Former Minister of State Rory Stewart will serve in Ms Mordaunt's former role as International Development Secretary

Former Minister of State Rory Stewart will serve in Ms Mordaunt's former role as International Development Secretary

Former Minister of State Rory Stewart will serve in Ms Mordaunt’s former role as International Development Secretary

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson walks from Parliament after attending Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson walks from Parliament after attending Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson walks from Parliament after attending Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday

Ms Mordaunt and her replacement Mr Stewart both have military backgrounds, she serves as a Royal Naval Reservist and he formerly as an adviser overseas to the Foreign Office. 

A Downing Street spokesman said earlier: ‘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.’

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. 

But his sacking raises the question of whether he will  face a criminal investigation into his conduct in leaking details from a top secret meeting.

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

Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable tonight 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.’ 

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