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 Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 6:11 pm, 22nd July 2019

The hon. Gentleman has asked a number of questions; let me try to deal with as many of them as I can.

On the hon. Gentleman’s last point about Chinese involvement in the wider economy, he will recognise that there is a balance to be struck between welcoming inward investment into our economy, which we do, and wanting to be confident that our security requirements are met. In relation to ZTE, he may know that the Government’s judgment, based on advice from the National Cyber Security Centre, is that ZTE should not have engagement particularly in the 5G communications network, which is the subject of this review and this statement.

On the hon. Gentleman’s earlier points, he describes what I am announcing as prevarication. I hope that I have been straightforward in accepting that there is a delay, and I have explained the reasons for it in relation to Huawei. I do not believe that it would be sensible, responsible or helpful to anyone, including the telecoms industry, were I to give a partial decision today when I am not in a position to give a complete decision. It follows from that that when the decision comes to be made, there will be a new Prime Minister in office—that is now a little less than 48 hours away—so it is inevitable that that will be the case.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned a legal challenge. As you would expect me to say, Mr Speaker, from a former life I am always aware of the possibility of legal challenge. In my experience, it is always a possibility, but the way that we can best insulate against it is to reach sensible decisions based on defensible criteria. Again, the best way to do that is to make sure that we have all the information that we need before we make a decision of this kind. That is precisely what the Government propose to do.

It is, of course, a possibility—and remains so—that the Government may decide that an outright ban on Huawei equipment in the 5G network is the appropriate course of action. All I say today is that we are not yet in a position to make a comprehensive decision about that. As soon as we are, we will, but the hon. Gentleman has my assurance—as I indicated to the Opposition spokesman, Tom Watson— that the decision that we take will be, first and foremost, in the interests of the United Kingdom, and that security interests and our national security equities will be the most important consideration in that.

Alan Brown suggests that the actions that we are taking are behind the curve internationally. That is not so. If we produce telecoms security requirements in the way that we propose, they will be world-leading measures, and we should be proud of that. We will legislate for them as soon as we are able to do so.

The hon. Gentleman asked for more detail about what diversification of the supply chain might involve. Let me give him some possible examples. We are talking about measures such as improved access to spectrum and the promotion of new infrastructure models. He will be aware of the £200 million 5G test beds and trials programme, which we believe will support new investment, and we can and should pursue greater interoperability for equipment from different suppliers, including by requiring this in technical standards. Of course, the Government can use their buying power to promote a diverse supplier base. We should do all those things in addition to seeking to invite existing, established suppliers to come into the UK market, where they are not already present.