Stewart: I’m not a spy but 'I served my country'

Tory leadership hopeful has denied he was a spy – but said he could not admit it if he had been.

The International Development Secretary said he had "served my country" but "if somebody asked me whether I was a spy I would say no".

Mr Stewart's colourful CV – which include stints as a soldier, diplomat and an administrator in Iraq – have fuelled speculation that he worked for MI6.

The Daily Telegraph reported that a Whitehall source claimed Mr Stewart spent seven years as a spy before entering Parliament.

But Mr Stewart denied that at a hustings on Monday and repeated his denial on BBC Radio 4's Today programme – but acknowledged it would be an offence to admit to being an agent if he had been.

Asked if former spies could, under the law, answer honestly whether they worked for MI6, he told Today: "No, and in fact the law wouldn't allow newspapers to reveal the identity of intelligence officers."

18 PHOTOS
Tory leadership race
See Gallery
Tory leadership race
Conservative party leadership contender Rory Stewart arrives at Here East studios in Stratford, east London, ahead of the live television debate for the candidates for leadership of the Conservative party, hosted by Channel 4.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson leaving his home in south London.
Michael Gove leaves Here East studios in Stratford, east London, following the live television debate for the candidates for leadership of the Conservative party, hosted by Channel 4.
Conservative party leadership contender Rory Stewart and wife Shoshana arrive at Here East studios in Stratford, east London, ahead of the live television debate for the candidates for leadership of the Conservative party, hosted by Channel 4.
Boris Johnson's father Stanley Johnson speaking outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London.
Sajid Javid launches his campaign to become leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party and Prime Minister in central London.
Boris Johnson during the launch of his campaign to become leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party and Prime Minister at the Royal Academy of Engineering in central London.
Conservative party leadership contender Rory Stewart speaking to a member of the public at a vote rally at the Underbelly Festival Garden on the Southbank in London. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images)
Anti Brexit protesters in Westminster as inside Parliament the Tory leadership race continues on 17th June 2019 in London, England, United Kingdom. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Pro Brexit protester with a Brexit map of the UK strapped to his back in Westminster as inside Parliament the Tory leadership race continues on 17th June 2019 in London, England, United Kingdom. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Anti Brexit protester, a grandma against Brixit in Westminster as inside Parliament the Tory leadership race continues on 17th June 2019 in London, England, United Kingdom. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Anti Brexit protester Steve Bray shouts a comment against Boris Johnson in Westminster as inside Parliament the Tory leadership race continues on 17th June 2019 in London, England, United Kingdom. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Anti Brexit protester in Westminster dressed up as a clown Boris Johnson, tells passers by his policies which are all about 'Me', as inside Parliament the Tory leadership race continues on 17th June 2019 in London, England, United Kingdom. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Conservative Party leadership contender Sajid Javid leaves his London home on June 17, 2019 in London, England. Javid took part in a televised debate yesterday, which saw him join Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Dominic Raab and Rory Stewart as they were questioned on how they would handle Brexit negotiations and their plans for the future if they were to win the race to become the leader of the Conservative Party and next Prime Minister. Current favourite Boris Johnson chose not to take part in the debate, with this place marked by an empty podium. (Photo by Luke Dray/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Foreign Secretary and Conservative Party leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt returns to his home following a morning run, on June 17, 2019 in London, England. Hunt took part in a televised debate yesterday, which saw him join Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Dominic Raab and Rory Stewart as they were questioned on how they would handle Brexit negotiations and their plans for the future if they were to win the race to become the leader of the Conservative Party and next Prime Minister. Current favourite Boris Johnson chose not to take part in the debate, with this place marked by an empty podium. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Conservative party leadership contender Rory Stewart at a vote rally at the Underbelly Festival Garden on the Southbank in London.
Anti Brexit protesters in Westminster as inside Parliament the Tory leadership race continues on 17th June 2019 in London, England, United Kingdom. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Anti Brexit protesters waving European Union flags in Westminster as inside Parliament the Tory leadership race continues on 17th June 2019 in London, England, United Kingdom. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

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."

Mr Stewart 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."

Mr Tugendhat, a former military intelligence officer, suggested that trying to use Mr Stewart "as political capital" could put others at risk.

Mr Stewart served briefly as an infantry officer in the Black Watch before university and then joined the UK diplomatic service, with postings in Jakarta, Indonesia, and as the British representative to Montenegro in the wake of the Kosovo crisis.

He was the coalition deputy-governor of two provinces in southern Iraq following the 2003 invasion.

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.

Read Full Story

FROM OUR PARTNERS