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‘No technological grounds’ to ban Huawei from 5G networks, say MPs

The Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee said some ethical concerns remain, but it could see no technical reason to ban the Chinese firm.


Huawei (Steve Parsons/PA)

Huawei (Steve Parsons/PA)

Huawei (Steve Parsons/PA)

There are no technological grounds for banning Chinese firm Huawei from the UK’s 5G networks, the Science and Technology Select Committee has said.

In a letter to Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, the chairman of the parliamentary select committee said it had “found no evidence” that excluding Huawei from UK telecoms infrastructure would be a “proportionate response” to security fears around the company.

The firm has come under scrutiny over alleged links to the Chinese government, with some critics arguing that its telecoms equipment could be used to spy on people in the West.

The company is currently the subject of an ongoing government review into whether it is safe to use the firm’s equipment, with a final decision expected later this summer.

Science and Technology Committee chairman Norman Lamb said: “Following my committee’s recent evidence session, we have concluded that there are no technical grounds for excluding Huawei entirely from the UK’s 5G or other telecommunications networks.

“The benefits of 5G are clear and the removal of Huawei from the current or future networks could cause significant delays.

“However, as outlined in the letter to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, we feel there may well be geopolitical or ethical considerations that the Government need to take into account when deciding whether they should use Huawei’s equipment.

“The Government also needs to consider whether the use of Huawei’s technology would jeopardise this country’s ongoing co-operation with our major allies.

“Moreover, Huawei has been accused of supplying equipment in Western China that could be enabling serious human rights abuses.

“The evidence we heard during our evidence session did little to assure us that this is not the case.

“I hope the evidence we have gathered helps the Government as it completes its Telecoms Supply Chain Review, which must be published by the end of August 2019.”

If such an exclusion were to be made mandatory, the Government must make clear the grounds on which Huawei were being excluded, to provide clear criteria that could be applied to another organisation in the futureNorman Lamb, Science and Technology Committee

In his letter to the Culture Secretary, Liberal Democrat MP Mr Lamb said the Government “should mandate the exclusion of Huawei from the core of UK telecommunications networks”.

He said the voluntary decision of mobile operators to exclude the firm from “core” aspects of their 5G networks in order to reduce the impact of any potential threat was one the Government should follow.

“If such an exclusion were to be made mandatory, the Government must make clear the grounds on which Huawei were being excluded, to provide clear criteria that could be applied to another organisation in the future,” he said.

The committee added that the Government should also follow Huawei’s attempts to improve its cyber security – something the Chinese firm has been challenged to do by the Oversight Board which monitors it in the UK – and be prepared to “restrict the use of Huawei equipment if progress is unsatisfactory”.

The most recent annual report from the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre’s Oversight Board said that “significant technical issues have been found in Huawei’s engineering processes”.

The Science and Technology Committee chairman also acknowledged that his conclusion was based on technology, but that some ethical concerns around the Chinese company could influence the Government’s decision, including the supply of Huawei equipment to parts of areas of the Chinese state accused of human rights abuses.

“The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has reported allegations that Huawei supplied equipment and support to Xinjiang’s public security bureau, which has been accused of the most serious human rights abuses,” Mr Lamb said.

“John Suffolk, Huawei’s global cyber security and privacy officer, clarified that Huawei’s services were provided to Xinjiang’s authorities through a third party, but acknowledged that its products were used there.”

Downing Street said the findings of the review would be published “as soon as it is ready”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I haven’t got a timetable. We have said we will publish it as soon as it is ready and that remains the case.”

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