Penny Mordaunt appointed as first ever female defence secretary after Gavin Williamson sacked over Huawei leak

Former international development secretary will retain the women and equalities brief

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 01 May 2019 19:20
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Penny Mordaunt in profile

Penny Mordaunt has been appointed as defence secretary after Theresa May sacked Gavin Williamson over the unprecedented Huawei leak.

The former international development secretary becomes the first woman to hold the position, and will continue to serve as minister for women and equalities.

The appointment follows the dramatic decision of the prime minister to sack Mr Williamson from government after she launched a leak inquiry to probe the disclosure of confidential information from a National Security Council meeting.

Former prisons minister Rory Stewart will replace Ms Mordaunt as international development secretary – the individual responsible for overseeing Britain’s foreign aid budget.

“I’m delighted to be back at the Ministry of Defence,” Ms Mordaunt said following her appointment.

“It is an honour and privilege to work with the best armed forces and defence civilians in the world.”

In a statement, 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.”

Mr Williamson was among five cabinet ministers reported to have raised concerns at the National Security Council (NSC) meeting, which is meant to be top secret.

In a damning letter to Mr Williamson, Ms May wrote that “no other credible version of events to explain this leak has been identified”.

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