Rory Stewart spy claims could put others at risk, senior Tory warns
Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the foreign affairs committee, made the remark after a Whitehall security source alleged to The Daily Telegraph that Mr Stewart was recruited by the Secret Intelligence Service after he left Oxford.
Before becoming an MP in 2010, Mr Stewart was a diplomat in Indonesia and Montenegro, and a deputy governor of two Iraqi provinces after the 2003 war. He also walked for 21 months across Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal.
Mr Stewart, the International Development Secretary, previously denied he was a spy. But, asked on BBC Radio 4 if ex-spies could legally say whether they worked for MI6, he said no.
He told Radio 4’s Today: "No, and in fact the law wouldn't allow newspapers to reveal the identity of intelligence officers."
Presenter Nick Robinson asked: "You can't really answer the question whether you were a spy or not, you can just simply say you served your country?"
Mr Stewart said: "I definitely would say I served my country and if somebody asked me whether I am a spy I would say no."
The Tory leadership contender, who bookmakers now consider to be the second favourite to become Prime Minister, later retweeted a comment from Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat, who said in response to the Telegraph allegations: "If he did, he risked everything in the shadows defending our nation.
"If he didn't, he risked everything in Iraq trying to build the peace. Whoever these Whitehall sources are need to seriously rethink their ethics."
If he did, he risked everything in the shadows defending our nation. If he didn’t, he risked everything in Iraq trying to build the peace. Whoever these Whitehall sources are need to seriously rethink their ethics. Trying to use @RoryStewartUK as political capital may risk others https://t.co/XmmU6MqQXJ— Tom Tugendhat (@TomTugendhat)June 17, 2019
The Telegraph's Whitehall source said Mr Stewart was hired by the Secret Intelligence Service as a "fast track" entry after he left Oxford University in the 1990s and left after seven years.
His father, Brian Stewart, has been a senior officer with the Secret Intelligence Service.
The spy claims come as the battle for the Tory crown heats up with a fresh round of voting in the leadership stakes.
Conservative MPs will vote in the second round of the contest on Tuesday, which will be followed by a TV debate which will see leadership front-runner Boris Johnson break his cover.
Candidates need to gain at least 33 votes from MPs to remain in the race to reach the final run-off, which will see some 160,000 Tory members select the next prime minister.