Civil servant who lost secret MoD papers was in line for Nato ambassador job

Angus Lapsley was also previously political and security ambassador to the EU
A Nato flag flies during the 2014 Nato summit in Newport. Photo: Matthew Horwood/Alamy Stock Photo

The civil servant responsible for the loss of secret Ministry of Defence documents found in a “soggy heap” at a Kent bus stop was on track to become ambassador to Nato, it has emerged.

Angus Lapsley, who was on secondment to the MoD from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, has now been identified as the official who misplaced 50 pages of secure documents earlier this summer.

A member of the public handed the papers to the BBC in June, when it reported they contained information about plans for a UK military presence in Afghanistan among other sensitive topics.

Last month, defence secretary Ben Wallace said the MoD had concluded an investigation into the discovery of the documents, and that the civil servant responsible – now identified as Lapsley – had had his security clearance revoked pending a full review.

It is now unlikely that Lapsley will get the ambassador job, but the appointment has not completely been ruled out, two sources told the Guardian.

Lapsley has been director general strategy and international since 2019, where he has been responsible for defence policy on Nato and the Euro-Atlantic area.

It is understood this position was a secondment and that he has now been redeployed back to the FCDO because he was unable to stay on at the MoD without security clearance.

He was director for defence, international security and south east Europe at the FCDO from 2017 to 2019, and was previously political and security ambassador to the EU.

Since joining the civil service in 1991 he has had a wide range of civil service roles, including several in the diplomatic service. He worked in the Department of Health and the UK Representation to the EU before serving John Major and then Tony Blair as home affairs private secretary, later going on to work in the Cabinet Office’s European and Global Issues Secretariat, the Foreign Office's EU Institutions Unit and elsewhere.

Final discinplinary action has yet to be decided, but some government security specialists are angry that Lapsley has not been publicly sanctioned, according to the Guardian.

“It used to be the case that people would be hung out to dry for something like this,” one source told the newspaper.

“The documents should not have been taken out of the building in this way and in this case,” they added.

Secret documents printed on pink paper, such as those involved in this incident, are not supposed to be removed from government buildings without being logged out and stored in a secure case.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “The individual concerned has been removed from sensitive work and has already had their security clearance suspended pending a full review."

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