Michael Gove pointedly refused to deny a report that Liz Truss’ home phone was potentially hacked by Russian agents, as Labor accused the government of “not taking national security seriously enough”.
Gove, returned to the cabinet this week by Rishi Sunak as upgrade secretary, said he could not discuss possible security breaches, but insisted there were “robust protocols ” in place on such matters.
The Mail on Sunday said agents who hacked into Truss’ personal phone when she was foreign secretary would have gained access to secret exchanges with other nations, as well as private conversations with Kwasi Kwarteng, who was later its chancellor when she was in No 10.
Asked about the allegations, Gove told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge program on Sunday: ‘I don’t know the full details of the security breach, if any, that took place. What I do know is that the government has very robust protocols in place to ensure that individuals are protected, but also that government security and national security are also protected.
Asked about reports that the incident was covered up by Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, with Truss partly concerned that the revelation could damage his bid to succeed Boris Johnson, Gove said: “I’m sure Liz at both as Foreign Secretary and as Prime Minister will have followed the advice given to him by the intelligence and security communities.
Speaking after Gove, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the return of Suella Braverman as home secretary by Sunak, just six days after Truss sacked her for security breaches, highlighted a broader lack of seriousness about security.
“All of this just raises questions about how the government isn’t taking national security seriously enough,” Cooper told the Ridge show.
“The problem is that the person who should be reassuring that the government has a grip, the person who should be doing interviews this morning about all of this, is Home Secretary Suella Braverman, and she cannot do that. because it is still unable to answer questions about its own serious flaws and security breaches.
Braverman was fired by Truss after it emerged the then Home Secretary had used a personal email to send sensitive government information on immigration policy to a Tory MP. She accidentally copied the message to another MP’s aide, who alerted Number 10.
Cooper said the Labor Party wanted to know if Braverman had been involved in previous security breaches and wanted any information uncovered by Case and the Cabinet Office more broadly to be sent to the House Intelligence and Security Committee, which oversees matters. of security.
“We repeatedly asked if the Home Secretary used his home phone to send other government documents,” Cooper said. “There are also questions as to whether she has been the subject of an investigation or other security leaks.
“It’s just irresponsible. You can’t have a Home Secretary who the Security Service doesn’t trust, who isn’t entrusted with important government information.
Asked about Braverman, Gove said the Home Secretary was “a top notch and top politician”.
He said: “She acknowledged that a mistake had been made. She works hard to make our borders safer and police more effective. She is a valued member of the firm and someone I admire and appreciate.
In a subsequent interview with BBC One’s Sunday show with Laura Kuenssberg, Gove appeared to partly blame the media for focusing too much on the issue of Braverman’s security breach, and said the very fact that it had been sent back to the government should reassure people enough.
While saying he did not wish to criticize journalists, Gove said “it becomes a distraction if people ask these questions”.
When asked how people could be sure she was not compromised by her approach to the role, Gove added: ‘By definition Suella’s return to power is a sign of confidence on the part of the government as a whole that it is equipped, ready and more than capable of facing the task ahead.