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Sir Malcolm Rifkind warns over China data centres sale

Published 04/09/2016

Sir Malcolm Rifkind said the Government needed to be satisfied there were no risks involved in the sale
Sir Malcolm Rifkind said the Government needed to be satisfied there were no risks involved in the sale

Former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind has insisted ministers must be satisfied there are no security risks involved before a possible sale of data centres to Chinese investors goes ahead.

A £5 billion deal could see China take control of one of the world's biggest computer hosting networks which is headquartered in the UK, according to The Sunday Times.

The newspaper reported that David and Simon Reuben, who top The Sunday Times rich list with a fortune of £13.1 billion, are in talks to sell Global Switch, which builds and owns data centres across the world.

Chinese data centre giant Daily Tech is leading a consortium attempting to buy Global Switch, according to the report.

Sir Malcolm, a former head of Parliament's intelligence and security committee, told The Sunday Times: "The Government needs to be satisfied there are no risks involved.

"I would assume they will be taking advice as we speak from the intelligence agencies, from GCHQ in particular, and from others with the expertise to know the risk factor.

"It will be based on that as to whether there should be some intervention.

"If there is a significant national security dimension then anyone selling a British company would normally listen very carefully to the advice they receive from the British Government."

Labour peer and former first sea lord Admiral Lord West of Spithead said: "I have a nervousness about the Chinese getting more and more involved in large chunks of our digital infrastructure."

The Sunday Times said a spokesman for Global Switch had insisted there would be no security implications involved because the firm was a property company and the Chinese would have no access to data.

A Global Switch spokesman said new Chinese investors would have no role in its management or day to day running, the newspaper said.

Downing Street and the Business Department both told the Press Association they had no knowledge of any such potential deal and so could not comment.

Global Switch said its parent company, Aldersgate Investments Limited, is in discussions with " a consortium of high quality private sector Asian investors" over a deal, but insisted that in the event of a deal there would be "no change to the management or strategic direction of Global Switch".

A spokeswoman said: "Aldersgate Investments Limited and the consortium will exercise joint control of Global Switch.

"From a customer perspective, Global Switch will continue to provide highly resilient and secure data centre space which complies with the guidance issued by the UK Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure as part of the UK Government's national security strategy."

The company added that Global Switch has "no access to customer data whatsoever".

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