Downing Street must provide a legally-binding deadline to exclude Huawei from the nation’s nascent 5G network or face a defeat in the Commons, as lawmakers are set to vote on legislation no later than in the next two months, senior Tory MPs have warned in The Telegraph .
“Parliament is feeling increasingly restless about the UK’s dependency on China. More and more legislators are recognising that how we handle this issue hugely affects our constituents”, Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Bob Seely said.
They argued that a ban on new Huawei equipment being incorporated into the UK telecoms network starting in 2023 or 2024, which the government has been debating, will “not be sufficient”. Instead, they have urged the government to have “all Huawei equipment removed from the UK network, root and branch, by a fixed date”.
Sir Iain and Mr Seely said Parliament’s views on the upcoming legislation is “troubling ministers”, as 59 MPs have now joined the Huawei Interest Group of Conservative MPs, the lawmakers remarked.
In their explanation, they dubbed China a “nascent superpower run by an intolerant government”, going on to add that in giving the Chinese telecom giant the green light, “we have undermined the unity of the shared Five Eyes approach to the global conduct of the Chinese Communist Party”.
Neil O’Brien, the Conservative MP who co-leads the China Research Group, when speaking to The Telegraph stressed that “here are important choices to make” on whether the radical changes will only affect the 5G network or also older Huawei 3G and 4G kits that are already in place in the network built by mobile operators.
A source close to the group shared on Monday that they could all vote against Downing Street by supporting rebel amendments to three potential bills slated to go through Parliament before the summer recess: one of them is the so-called Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill, currently in the committee stage in the House of Lords.
Lord Alton is expected to propose an amendment to stop companies with links to human rights violations from issuing supplies of technologies to leasehold properties. A draft of his amendment, seen by The Telegraph , says no operator should be allowed to use the UK’s telecommunications infrastructure “to breach human rights after 31 December 2023”.
The debate comes amid Britain’s plans to introduce new legislation that would axe foreign takeovers by companies that are considered to pose a threat to national security.
As part of the government’s National Security and Investment Bill, ministers are working to make it compulsory for British companies to report any attempted takeovers, with non-compliance carrying fines or even a prison sentence. Johnson’s official spokesman said the bill would “strengthen the government’s power to scrutinise and intervene in takeovers and mergers to protect national security, wherever risks may emanate from”.
He added that details of the legislative initiative would “be announced in due course”, saying:
“It’s a Queen’s speech commitment, so I’m sure it won’t be too long before we bring the legislation forward”.
Johnson is reportedly set to include “academic partnerships” on the list of companies overseen by the rules, as concerns have mounted about newly developed ties between British universities and Chinese companies, a Times report has it.
Huawei published an open letter in a number of British newspapers on Monday, insisting it was “committed as ever” to building internet networks “quickly, affordably, and securely”.
“For nearly 20 years, we’ve supplied the UK’s mobile and broadband companies with 3G and 4G. But some now question our role in helping Britain lead the way in 5G”, the telecoms giant said, boasting it is also playing its part in creating jobs, “training the engineers of tomorrow, investing in new technology, and supporting universities”.
Huawei was given limited access, up to 35 percent of the British market a few months ago, despite its western allies, primarily the US, going to great lengths to try to talk Downing Street out of opting for Huawei as a 5G provider, citing “back doors” in its kits that could potentially be exploited at Beijing’s behest.
Both the Chinese authorities and Huawei management have assured a number of times that all of their equipment is transparent and invited independent checks into the matter.
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