Rishi Sunak makes first statement as Prime Minister
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Rishi Sunak’s first Cabinet is at risk of being “damaged” by Gavin Williamson, a former minister has said, after describing Mr Williamson as being “poison”. The former Education Secretary was appointed to Mr Sunak’s Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio yesterday.
Mr Sunak said his Cabinet would bring “integrity” to Government.
But one former minister questioned the decision to appoint Mr Williamson, claiming: “The man is poison”.
Speaking to the i, they added: “A lot of colleagues are concerned about it. I think it risks damaging Rishi as he tries to unite the party.”
Mr Williamson was forced to resign in 2019 after leaking sensitive national security information.
The issue was raised by Labour MP Stephen Kinnock at PMQ’s today, accusing Mr Sunak of “shamelessly swapping red boxes for political support”.
He said: “Yesterday, the Prime Minister stood on the steps of Downing Street and said that he wanted to restore trust, yet in the past 24 hours we have seen that he is prepared to shamelessly swap red boxes for political support.
“There are real serious consequences to all this horse trading, so I would like him to be clear on this point – did he seek or receive any advice on security concerns about the right honourable member for South Staffordshire (Mr Williamson) before his appointment to the Government yesterday, given that he was sacked in 2019 for leaking sensitive information relating to our national security?”
The Prime Minister responded: “He is talking about events that happened four years ago.
“It is right that he raised the topic of national security because members opposite four years ago were busily supporting the member for Islington North, who wanted to abolish the nuclear deterrent, who wanted to leave Nato, and who wanted to scrap our armed forces.
“We won’t take any lectures on national security.”
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister wants to draw on all talents from across the party and build a team that can unify the party and I think that is what he’s done, as you can see from those who are in the senior positions in the Cabinet.”
Mr Sunak also faced controversy over his appointment of Suella Braverman as Home Secretary.
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Ms Braverman resigned from Government last Wednesday, admitting to having “sent an official document from my personal email to a trusted parliamentary colleague as part of policy engagement, and with the aim of garnering support for government policy on migration”.
She was then reappointed by Mr Sunak after he became Prime Minister yesterday.
But Labour Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said the appointment was indicative of the “same old Tory chaos”, adding: “It is letting the country down.”
Mr Sunak defended his appointment of Ms Braverman at PMQs today, saying: “The Home Secretary made an error of judgment but she recognised that, she raised the matter and she accepted her mistake.
“That is why I was delighted to welcome her back into a united cabinet that brings experience and stability to the heart of Government.”
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