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Code rights in respect of land connected to leased premises

Part of Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:00 pm on 10th March 2020.

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Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green 2:00 pm, 10th March 2020

My right hon. Friend is correct. I will quote what happened in the debate we held in Westminster Hall, because we heard a really significant final statement. The Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend Matt Warman said—quite rightly, by the way, as I think this is a very good starting point—that

“we will work to move towards no involvement of high-risk vendors.”—[Official Report, 4 March 2020;
Vol. 672, c. 299WH.]

I want to conclude—and allow others to get into this debate—by simply saying that three things need to happen today. I recognise fully, and I say this to the Secretary of State, having done much the same kind of stuff as him, that it is not easy. I recognise that, strictly speaking, this is not the correct Bill to try to force through the whole change, but my view is any port in a storm. This amendment is a boat in a different port, but perhaps if he so wants, we can move it into the correct port when he brings through the relevant Bill.

I need some absolute clarity from the Secretary of State, as I think do my colleagues. First, we must plan and we need to know that it is the Government’s intention to move to essentially rid ourselves of high-risk vendors from our system. There also needs to be a concept of timescale in this. I want the Government to recognise and to accept that we have to set ourselves the task to do this. I accept that the Government have already said they want to do it with their Five Eyes colleagues—that is a start, because they have not said that before—but we need to work with our real allies to get ourselves into the position where we can actually go on to rid ourselves of these high-risk vendors. I accept that that is not without difficulty, so the Government need to make that pledge very clearly, and they need to give the timescale by which they will have achieved it and commenced the process of winding out those high-risk vendors.

Lastly, if the Government do not want us to try to create trouble on this Bill, they must give an absolutely lock-tight commitment that the Bill relevant to this will return before the summer—categorically before that, and an early as possible, perhaps in May—so that we can properly see these commitments plus others written into that Bill, and we can understand that those are the Government’s intentions. It is absolutely critical for me—I will make my mind up on this only when I have heard the words of the Secretary of State—and we need to know, that it is the Government’s intention to rid ourselves of high-risk vendors such as Huawei; that it is the Government’s intention to do that in the Bill that will come before us; that they will now work aggressively and at speed with our Five Eyes colleagues, inviting them in immediately to create, with all of us, a system that allows us to do that at the earliest opportunity; and that they will commence the absolute beginnings of that retraction before the end of this Parliament. I give way a little bit on those timescales, but I think I am being fairly reasonable.

It is not normally given to me to make any demands, and I am not doing so. I am simply urging my right hon. Friend, his colleagues and anybody else from the Government who is watching—I genuinely understand the difficulties they are in—to please stop lecturing us and saying that there is no other provider and to stop lecturing us about this somehow killing broadband roll-out—it does not. Most importantly, they must remember that the security of the realm is the No. 1 priority, and that is why I have tabled the amendment.