Liz Truss ‘phone hack by Russia’ needs investigation, say Tory MPs


Conservative MPs have joined calls for an investigation into a bombshell report that Liz Truss’s phone was hacked by Russian spies, as the government was accused of failing to take national security seriously enough.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove declined to deny the report that the former prime minister’s personal phone was hacked when she was foreign secretary – but insisted the government has “very robust protocols” in place.

One leading security expert told The Independent that it was time for a judicial inquiry into the security of government communications – describing the use of personal phones as a “total mess”.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats have called on the government to urgently investigate the security scandal and provide answers on why a “news blackout” was reportedly imposed by then-prime minister Boris Johnson and cabinet secretary Simon Case.

Senior Tories said parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) should launch inquiries. Tobias Ellwood, chair of the Commons’ defence select committee, told Sky News: “It is something for the sister committee … I think to investigate further.”

Senior Tory MP Stephen Hammond also suggested the ISC should undertake an inquiry into the “incredibly worrying” reports of a security breach. “There are a number of issues I want to know,” he told LBC.

The former Tory minister added: “It’s incredibly worrying at a time we are at war that there is now the suggestion … most worryingly of all, that the foreign secretary’s phone was hacked by our enemy. How did that happen? Why were there breaches of our security that would have put us all at risk?”

Hackers suspected to be working for Russia were claimed to have gained access to sensitive information – including discussions with officials about the war in Ukraine and arms shipments – from Ms Truss’s phone, according to the Mail on Sunday.

Messages between Ms Truss and her future chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng in which the pair were critical of Boris Johnson, were among a year’s worth of message which were compromised, leading to a potential risk of blackmail, the report claimed.

The newspaper also claimed details of the breach, apparently discovered when Ms Truss was running for the Tory leadership in the summer, were “suppressed” by Mr Johnson and Mr Case.

Leading security expert Prof Antony Glees said it was “disturbing” that ministers appeared to be using “private phones to conduct government business over WhatsApp and their personal email” – calling for a judicial inquiry.

“A senior high court judge needs to look at this,” Prof Glees told The Independent. “I think the investigation needs to be into national security implications of what appears to be the government’s failure to adhere to guidelines on communications. It’s become such a total mess.”

The University of Buckingham expert added: “I fear [Ms Truss] may not be the only one to have had her phone hacked. There appears to be a culture of laxness when it comes to national security. It’s totally irresponsible and disturbing.”

It come as Rishi Sunak comes under fire for his decision to reappoint Suella Braverman as home secretary only six days after she was sacked for a security breach, having sent a sensitive document from her private email.

The former head of the British Army Lord Dannatt said Ms Braverman’s use of email and Ms Truss’s reported phone hack highlights “ill-discipline” and poor judgement in government on security matters.

Lord Dannatt told Times Radio: “We’ve seen it with Suella Braverman, apparently sending messages that she shouldn’t have done on a personal email, and now we get it with Liz Truss.”

He added: “This, frankly, is not good enough, if these people aspire to be in senior positions, positions of leadership, they’ve got to be disciplined, they’ve got to follow the rules, or, frankly, we’ll put other people in their place.”

He said all government business should be done using an encrypted handheld device, secure telephone line or other means of communication secured by government. “Not doing so is ill discipline and, frankly, reflects very poorly on their judgment.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Ms Braverman ought to be “providing reassurance” about the reported phone hack – but “she can’t do that because she’s still unable to answer those serious questions about her own security breaches and lapses”.

Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Ms Cooper said the report about Ms Truss raised “serious allegations about whether a cabinet minister has been using a personal phone for serious government business” as well “serious questions about why this information or this story has been leaked or briefed right now”.

The Lib Dems’ foreign affairs spokesperson Layla Moran called on foreign secretary James Cleverly to make a statement in the Commons on Monday on the reported hack, and for an initial investigation to be completed within the week.

“Was Liz Truss’s phone hacked by Russia, was there a news blackout and if so why? If it turns out this information was withheld from the public to protect Liz Truss’s leadership bid, that would be unforgivable,” said Ms Moran.

She told the BBC on Sunday: “In the case of the foreign secretary’s phone being hacked, if the Russians had gotten hold of secrets that she was communicating to others in her team that could derail efforts for the war in Ukraine on the ground – that is incredibly serious.”

Mr Hammond also said any inquiry would have to probe who took the decision not to share any details of the reported hack. “I don’t know the rationale for why the then prime minister and cabinet secretary took the decision, I’m assuming it was them who took the decision,” said the senior Tory.

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