Police will not probe a leak from a top-secret National Security Council meeting about Chinese tech giant Huawei because it was not a criminal offence, a top cop says.
Gavin Williamson was sacked as defence secretary after Prime Minister Theresa May claimed there was “compelling evidence” he was behind the leak – something he denies.
Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu of the Metropolitan Police announced on Saturday the leak “did not contain information that would breach the Official Secrets Act” and “did not amount to a criminal offence”.
Mr Basu said the Cabinet Office had not provided evidence that a crime had been committed, and no crime has been alleged by the “owner of the material”.
He said a police investigation at this stage would be “inappropriate”, adding: “No crime has been committed and this is not a matter for the police.
Mr Basu said he was “satisfied” that the information leaked to the media did not “contain information that would breach the Official Secrets Act”.
He said the leak “did not cause damage to the public interest at a level at which it would be necessary to engage Misconduct in a Public Office”.
Leaked reports of a meeting of the National Security Council last month suggested that Mrs May had cleared Huawei to be involved in “non-core” elements of the 5G network, such as antennae.
According to reports in the Daily Telegraph, Mrs May overruled five ministers who expressed concern that the company’s involvement might provide a route for Chinese spying and undermine allies’ confidence in the security of UK communications.
After he was sacked, Mr Williamson denied leaking information from the National Security Council, and claimed his sacking was a politically motivated decision.
He claimed he had been “utterly screwed” and swore on his children’s lives that neither he nor his staff leaked the information.
Downing Street said the PM had “lost confidence in his ability to serve”. Mr Williamson was not accused of a criminal offence.
On Friday, Mrs May insisted she took “the right decision” in sacking Mr Williamson, who was dismissed following an inquiry by Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill.
The chairwoman of Parliament’s Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, Dame Margaret Beckett, has written to Sir Mark, who is also Mrs May’s National Security Adviser, asking him to pass on his report on its outcome.
Opposition parties had called for the Prime Minister to refer the case to police so a criminal investigation could be launched.
It is understood Sir Mark found the information leaked was not of a classification level which would make its disclosure a criminal act.
Mrs May’s de facto deputy, David Lidington, had said the government did not think it necessary to refer the leak to the police, and the PM considered the matter “closed”.
In a statement, Mr Basu, the head of the Metropolitain Police’s Specialist Operations, said: “I have spoken to the Cabinet Office regarding the nature of the material that was discussed in the National Security Council.
“This material was used to inform a discussion, the outcome of which was subsequently disclosed to the media.
“I am satisfied that what was disclosed did not contain information that would breach the Official Secrets Act.
“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.
“Any organisation has the right to conduct an internal investigation into conduct in the workplace.
“It is not a matter for the police unless a crime is alleged.
“At no time have the police been provided with evidence by the Cabinet Office that a crime has been committed nor has it been suggested that a Gateway process would be required to enable that determination to be made.
“No crime has been alleged by the owner of the material and I am clear that the leak did not cause damage to the public interest at a level at which it would be necessary to engage Misconduct in a Public Office.
“It would be inappropriate to carry out a police investigation in these circumstances.”
Mr Williamson, the MP for South Staffordshire since 2010, made light of a tumultuous week on Friday, posting photos on social media of him enjoying a meal at McDonald’s.
The 42-year-old wrote on Twitter: “I’ve certainly had my chips this week.”
A caption on Instagram read: “So the plan had been for dinner this evening with the US Defence Secretary at Lancaster House.
“Obviously things change and you just can’t beat a @mcdonalds.”
He also tweeted: “Huge thank you to all of you for all your support the past few days.
“Enormously grateful to have received so many kind and supportive messages – there have been far too many to respond individually to!”
Penny Mordaunt has replaced Mr Williamson as defence secretary.