Parliament’s intelligence committee says new PM must make Huawei decision quickly

The committee stated that the debate “has been unnecessarily protracted” and has “damaged our international relationships”.

The intelligence and security committee of parliament has called for the next prime minister to quickly make a decision on Huawei’s role in the UK’s 5G infrastrucutre.

In a three-page statement published on Friday, the committee said the debate about Huawei “has been unnecessarily protracted” and “damaged our international relationships”, although it did not explain which relationships had been damaged.

The ongoing campaign to replace Theresa May as the leader of the Conservative Party and as prime minister is expected to conclude within days, with a winner announced on Tuesday.

At that point the British decision on what role, if any, the Chinese telecoms giant’s equipment could play in the UK’s 5G network is required, amid concerns it might allow Beijing to spy and sabotage UK networks.

Suggestions in April that Mrs May had, during a National Security Council meeting, decided to allow Huawei to take part in “non-core” elements of the 5G infrastructure have since been dismissed by the government.

The then defence secretary Gavin Williamson was accused of leaking the claim about Mrs May’s decision and was subsequently fired. He has denied being behind the leak.

Another parliamentary committee – the joint committee on national security – has now launched another inquiry into Huawei’s role in 5G. The stage of this inquiry, receiving written submissions, won’t conclude until 13 September.

Explaining its concerns about the impact of a potential ban on competition, the intelligence committee wrote: “The telecoms market has been consolidated down to just a few players: in the case of 5G there are only three potential suppliers to the UK – Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei.

“Limiting the field to just two… would increase over-dependence and reduce competition, resulting in less resilience and lower security standards.

“Therefore including a third company – even if you may have some security concerns about them and will have to set a higher bar for security measures within the system – will, counter-intuitively, result in higher overall security.”

Speaking to Sky News last week, Huawei’s head of government affairs, Victor Zhang, said: “I am confident that the UK will choose Huawei for the future 5G development.”

Mr Zhang did not comment on whether he believed the company’s role would be limited to those parts of the network which perform less critical functions, and are thus less valuable to a hostile party trying to conduct espionage or sabotage.

However the intelligence committee, like the science and technology committee last week, expressed concerns about the UK aligning its policy with that of fellow Five Eyes partners who have banned Huawei from being involved in their domestic 5G networks.

This question “is not about any risk to the communication channels which are used for intelligence exchange – these would always be kept entirely separate”, the committee explained.

“It is about perception as much as anything: our Five Eyes partners need to be able to trust the UK and we must not do anything which puts that at risk – the value of the partnership cannot be overstated.”

The Five Eyes intelligence-sharing nations are, in addition to Britain, Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand.

Speaking to journalists on Thursday, the US deputy assistant secretary for cyber security, Robert Strayer, said Washington would have to reassess its information sharing with the UK if Huawei was allowed any role at all in its 5G infrastructure.

He said: “We consider Huawei to be a substantial risk to the communications infrastructure.

“Therefore any country that deploys Huawei equipment in any part of its 5th generation infrastructure will be a network… that we need to assess ourselves and make a determination about how we will respond going forward.”

A review of the telecommunication supply chain in the UK has been conducted by the government, with input from the security and intelligence agencies, as well as from industry.

Although it is not expected to be published in full, the result of that review – and its recommendations – have been awaited for several months.

A spokesperson for the government told Sky News: “The security and resilience of the UK’s telecoms networks is of paramount importance.

“We have robust procedures in place to manage risks to national security and are committed to the highest possible security standards.

“The telecoms supply chain review will be announced in due course. We have been clear throughout the process that all network operators will need to comply with the government’s decision,” they added.

Source: Sky News


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