A committee of MPs has demanded answers on the cabinet secretary’s role in investigating alleged security breaches by ministers, amid questions over Suella Braverman’s reappointment as home secretary.
The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has asked Simon Case to set out the official processes, procedures and guidelines for security breach investigations, after Braverman admitted to sending official documents to her personal email address.
Braverman resigned in October over the breach, which broke the ministerial code. However, she was reappointed days later when Rishi Sunak was appointed prime minister.
According to an official letter from PACAC chair, Conservative MP William Wragg to Case and copied to Sunak, sent last week, the committee is keen to understand the procedure for dealing with security breaches by ministers.
The letter, sent last week, said that the reappointment of Braverman as home secretary raises “certain procedural questions”, and that “the committee may wish to pursue this issue further”.
Wragg requested information on the established processes available to the cabinet secretary for handling ministerial security breaches; the investigative processes and assessment of their effectiveness; what kind advice the cab sec provides to the prime minister on what action to take in case of a suspected breach; and assessments taken to assess future breach risks, amongst other details.
He also asked what processes there are for the cab sec and other civil servants advising the prime minister to record their advice and any views they have on how the PM handles the breach.
PACAC’s enquiries come after the senior cabinet member resigned on 19 October over an alleged security breach where she admitted sending official documents to her personal email six times.
In a letter to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Braverman said the breaches took place between 6 September and 19 October, and that “none of the documents in question concerned national security, intelligence agency or cyber security matters, and did not pose any risk to national security.”
Braverman has said she apologised to the prime minister when he reappointed her as home secretary on 25 October.
Following her letter to HASC, MPs from other political parties called for the home secretary to resign. Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said in response: “this is not a one-off error, the home secretary has admitted breaking the rules on an industrial scale.”
Following Braverman’s reappointment, she has continuously fielded questions during her parliamentary appearances about the security breach, how she will do her job as home secretary and why MPs should trust her, among others.
Case’s predecessor as cabinet secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, was tasked with overseeing the investigation of a high-profile security breach in May 2019, when information from a confidential meeting of the National Security Council about the comms firm Huawei’s role in the UK’s 5G network was leaked.
Case’s predecessor as cabinet secretary was tasked with investigating a high-profile security breach in May 2019, when information from a confidential meeting of the National Security Council about the comms firm Huawei’s role in the UK’s 5G network was leaked.
Sedwill later told CSW the investigation had been “particularly thorough and intrusive” investigation by officials under his supervision. He said he had made “no recommendation” on the action the PM took as a result.
Asked if Williamson’s appointment by May’s successor Boris Johnson several months later as education secretary undermined its findings, Sedwill said: “Not at all. There were consequences decided by the last prime minister; this prime minister chose to appoint him to the cabinet. And he's doing a job as the secretary of state for education and he and I have a perfectly good relationship as a result.”
Williamson was later sacked in a 2021 reshuffle following controversy over the use of an algorithm to award A-Levels and other qualifications. He made a short-lived return to cabinet last month before resigning over bullying allegations, including the claim he told a civil servant to “slit your throat” while defence secretary. Williamson has denied bullying staff.