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UK Telecommunications

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:08 pm on 28th January 2020.

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Photo of John Nicolson John Nicolson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 3:08 pm, 28th January 2020

The Conservative party likes to brand itself as the party of security, but many will think that this decision is born out of weakness. It has come about as a result of short-termism and decades of under-investment. The Prime Minister has gone for the cheapest, least secure option, but it does not take a genius to work out why Huawei is so competitive in cost. It is the Chinese Communist party branded as a company, and the Conservative Government have chosen low cost over security. 5G has been described as the central nervous system of a modern society, and every citizen wants to know whether the state itself can be undermined by the decision that the Government have made. But let us be in no doubt: 5G infrastructure from China is not safe. Under Chinese law, every Chinese company is mandated to give whatever help it is asked to give to the Chinese intelligence services, and in secret. That alone should have been enough for the Prime Minister to decide against allowing the company access.

The Secretary of State has said that the company will be limited to 35% market share in the periphery of the 5G network and will be banned from core functions, but anyone who understands 5G will know that that is not how it works. Installing masts, for instance, may seem innocuous, but each antenna has software, which is remotely updatable, and the so-called peripheral access network can communicate. It can contain malware, which these days is tiny and hard to detect. There is a very good reason why countries such as Australia and New Zealand have chosen not to let the company into their markets. I suspect history will judge that their Governments showed more wisdom at a critical time.

The Government have made a choice: low cost over security. It is the wrong choice, and surely the Foreign Secretary must realise that future generations may come to judge his decision harshly.