GCHQ director Robert Hannigan has quit his role, the intelligence agency has announced

GCHQ director Robert Hannigan has decided to quit, the intelligence agency has announced.

The senior civil servant was stepping down over ‘personal reasons’, the UK Government Communications Headquarters confirmed.

The father of two had taken over from Sir Iain Lobban in 2014, having served as the director general of defence and intelligence at the Foreign Office since 2010.

Mr Hannigan will step down as soon as a successor was identified, with an ‘internal competition within government’ expected to take place imminently.

His tenure at the Cheltenham-based agency started in November 2014, following a period of intense scrutiny of its work sparked by revelations by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

In a letter to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Mr Hannigan wrote: ‘After a good deal of thought I have decided that this is the right time to move on and to allow someone else to lead GCHQ through its next phase.

‘I am, like you, a great enthusiast for our history and I think it is right that a new Director should be firmly embedded by our centenary in 2019.

‘I am very committed to GCHQ’s future and will of course be happy to stay in post until you have been able to appoint a successor.

‘I have been lucky enough to have some extraordinary roles in public service over the last twenty years, from Northern Ireland to 10 Downing Street, the Cabinet Office and the Foreign Office.

‘But they have all demanded a great deal of my ever patient and understanding family, and now is the right time for a change in direction.’ 

Mr Hannigan described leading the men and women of GCHQ as a ‘great privilege’.

The senior civil servant was stepping down over ‘personal reasons’, the UK Government Communications Headquarters (based in Cheltenham, pictured) confirmed

He wrote: ‘I am proud of what we have achieved in those years, not least setting up the National Cyber Security Centre and building greater public understanding of our intelligence work.

‘I am equally proud of the relentless 24-hour operational effort against terrorism, crime and many other national security threats.

‘While this work must remain secret, you will know how many lives have been saved in this country and overseas by the work of GCHQ.

‘Underpinning this is our world-class technology and, above all, our brilliant people.

‘As you know, I have also initiated the greatest internal change within GCHQ for 30 years, and I feel that we are now well on the way to being fit for the next generation of security challenges to the UK in the digital age.’

Mr Hannigan will step down as soon as a successor was identified, with an ‘internal competition within government’ expected to take place imminently

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