Telecoms Supply Chain Review

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:11 pm on 22nd July 2019.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield 6:11 pm, 22nd July 2019

I welcome the publication of the Government’s telecoms supply chain review report today. I am very pleased to see that the report reflects many of the points that the Intelligence and Security Committee raised in its statement on 5G suppliers on Friday. I specifically welcome the explicit national security direction power for the Secretary of State to compel telecoms operators in relation to high-risk vendors, because that issue was first raised by the ISC back in 2013.

With that praise in mind, may I pick up a couple of points? The timetable for providing Ofcom with increased responsibility for the new telecoms security requirements will clearly be of great importance. I ask the Secretary of State: will that be accompanied by additional resources for suitably skilled staff? If Ofcom is to do this job, it will need staff—probably brought in from elsewhere—who have skills that Ofcom does not currently possess. Can he give any greater clarity on the consultation timetable? I appreciate that the legislation is more difficult, but it would be helpful for the House to have an idea of the timeframe for the consultation process.

Finally, turning to Huawei, in the light of the United States’ position and the lack of clarity on entity classification, I entirely understand why the Secretary of State finds it difficult to make a decision at the moment. Clearly, if Huawei is deemed to be such an entity, the reality is that none of those inventing the technology will be able to have any dealings with that company, with long-term consequences for Huawei’s ability to deliver for anybody. That having been said, will the Secretary of State assure the House that this will not be used as an excuse for can kicking? I think that once the 90 days are up, as he may agree, there will be clarity, and the decision must then be made.