The history of parliamentary intrigue, from the Belgrano to Iraq, sheds light on the sacking of Gavin Williamson
In 1985 Clive Ponting, a senior Ministry of Defence civil servant, was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act for passing a note to a Labour MP revealing that the Thatcher government was misleading parliament over the sinking of the Argentine cruiser, the General Belgrano, during the Falklands war.
MoD officials had agonised over whether they should ask the police to conduct a leak inquiry. They decided to do so after discussing the matter with the defence secretary, Michael Heseltine. They noted that just two years earlier a junior official at the ministry, Sarah Tisdall, had been jailed for passing documents to the Guardian about US cruise missiles being based in Britain and it would look bad if a more senior official was not prosecuted.
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