1046 GMT September 19, 2019
May has ordered security chiefs to seize mobile phone and email records of anyone suspected of revealing government splits or secrets.
All ‘culprits’ will be sacked – even if no threat to national security is involved.
The draconian action was revealed in a letter from cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood which was, ironically, leaked to The Daily Mail on Sunday.
He told civil servants about the crackdown in a written letter instead of an email in an attempt to keep it secret.
But enraged insiders, who called the crackdown ‘quasi totalitarian’, leaked the memo to this newspaper.
The diktat follows a series of cabinet leaks, splits and rows over Brexit and other issues involving May, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Brexit Minister David Davis and International Trade Minister Liam Fox.
In the note, dated November 28, and marked Official-Sensitive, Jeremy referred to a “spate of leaks and unauthorized briefings” that surfaced in the press on Brexit, the US elections and the annual Autumn Statement.
“The prime minister has directed that we urgently tighten security processes and improve our response to leaks. She has instructed that we begin this work immediately and expects to see rapid and visible improvement,” he wrote.
“Anyone found to have leaked sensitive information will be dismissed even where there is no compromise of national security. The prime minister will be writing in similar terms to ministers.”
In his note, Heywood said it was essential to “ensure staff are available for interview and tough disciplinary measures” when a culprit is caught leaking sensitive information.
“I have already strengthened the controls for sensitive Cabinet Committee papers. This will require all the energy and attention any cultural change demands.”
May has vowed to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the formal process for starting Brexit, by March next year.
She has been under immense pressure by her critics, who say she has no precise plan to start the Brexit negotiations.
May’s stern tone can be clearly heard in the letter from Heywood – who adds she will reinforce the message in a personal missive to ministers.