UK Telecommunications

– in the House of Commons at 12:37 pm on 14 July 2020.

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Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 12:37, 14 July 2020

Digital connectivity is an increasingly vital part of our lives. During this period of global crisis, it has brought home the profound importance of a reliable connection. The 4G technology has enabled rapid internet connection over mobile phones: alongside superfast broadband at home, it has allowed people to do everything from Zoom calls to downloading movies. But the Government need to look to the future. That means developing world-class, next-generation digital technology through 5G for mobile and gigabit-capable for fibre. It is only by doing this that we will remain at the forefront of the technology revolution.

In order to realise the full benefits of those technologies though, we have to have confidence in the security and resilience of the infrastructure on which they are built. Keeping the country secure is the primary duty of Government to their people. This consideration precedes all others. There is, of course, no such thing as a perfectly secure network, but the responsibility of the Government is to ensure that it is as secure as it possibly can be. That is why we conducted the telecoms supply chain review to look at the long-term security of our 5G and full-fibre networks.

The review set out plans to implement one of the toughest regimes in the world for telecoms security: one that would shift from a model where the telecoms industry merely follows guidance to a model where standards would be enforced by legislation; one that would require all operators to raise security standards and combat a range of threats, whether from cybercriminals or state-sponsored attacks; and one that gave the Government the necessary powers to keep our approach up to date as the technology develops.

A critical aspect of that was how we address so-called high-risk vendors—those which pose greater security and resilience risks to the UK’s networks—so in January we set out to the House our conclusions on how we would define and restrict high-risk vendors, keeping them outside the network’s core and away from critical infrastructure and sites. We have been clear-eyed from the start that Chinese-owned vendors Huawei and ZTE were deemed high risk, and we made clear that the National Cyber Security Centre would review and update its advice as necessary.

Clearly, since January, the situation has changed. On 15 May, the US Department of Commerce announced that new sanctions had been imposed against Huawei through changes to the foreign direct product rules. This was a significant material change, and one that we had to take into consideration. The sanctions are not the first attempt by the US to restrict Huawei’s ability to supply equipment to 5G networks. They are, however, the first to have potentially severe impacts on Huawei’s ability to supply new equipment in the United Kingdom. The new US measures restrict Huawei’s ability to produce important products using US technology or software.

The National Cyber Security Centre has reviewed the consequences of the US actions and has now reported to Ministers that it has significantly changed its security assessment of Huawei’s presence in the UK’s 5G network. Given the uncertainty that this creates around Huawei’s supply chain, the UK can no longer be confident of being able to guarantee the security of future 5G equipment affected by the change in US foreign direct product rules. To manage the risk, the NCSC has issued new advice on the use of Huawei in UK telecoms networks.

This morning, the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the National Security Council. Attendees at that meeting took full account of the National Cyber Security Centre’s advice, together with the implications for UK industry and wider geostrategic considerations. The Government agree with the National Cyber Security Centre’s advice: the best way to secure our networks is for operators to stop using new affected Huawei equipment to build the UK’s future 5G networks. To be clear: from the end of this year, telecoms operators must not buy any 5G equipment from Huawei. Once the telecoms security Bill is passed, it will be illegal for them to do so.

However, we also recognise the range of concerns voiced in the House regarding Huawei’s role in our 5G network. I have listened carefully to those concerns, and I agree that we need clarity on our position and to take decisive action. I have previously set out our plans to safely manage the presence of high-risk vendors in our 5G network, and of course our ambition right from the beginning was that no one should need to use a high-risk vendor for 5G at all, but I know that hon. Members sought a commitment from the Government to remove Huawei equipment from our 5G network altogether. That is why we have concluded that it is necessary, and indeed prudent, to commit to a timetable for the removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G network by 2027. Let me be clear: this requirement will be set out in law by the telecoms security Bill. By the time of the next election, we will have implemented in law an irreversible path for the complete removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G networks.

We have not taken this decision lightly, and I must be frank about the decision’s consequences for every constituency in this country. This will delay our roll-out of 5G. Our decisions in January had already set back that roll-out by a year and cost up to £1 billion. Today’s decision to ban the procurement of new Huawei 5G equipment from the end of this year will delay that roll-out by a further year and will add up to £500 million to costs. In addition, requiring operators to remove Huawei equipment from their 5G networks by 2027 will add further hundreds of millions of pounds to the cost and will further delay the roll-out. That means a cumulative delay to 5G roll-out of two to three years, and costs of up to £2 billion. That will have real consequences for the connections on which all our constituents rely.

I have to say that to go faster and further beyond the 2027 target would add considerable, and indeed unnecessary, further costs and delays.

The shorter we make the timetable for removal, the greater the risk of actual disruption to mobile telephone networks.

The world-leading expertise of NCSC and GCHQ has enabled us to publish one of the most detailed analyses of the risks to the 5G network. The UK is now acting quickly, decisively and ahead of our international partners. Our approach reflects the UK’s specific national circumstances and how the risks from the sanctions are manifested here in the UK. It has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the UK’s telecoms networks, for our national security and for our economy, both now and in the long run.

We also need to look at other networks. Although they are fundamentally different from 5G, they need to be as secure and resilient as our new mobile technology, as many Members of this House have pointed out in the past. Reflecting again the advice of the National Cyber Security Centre, we will need to take a different approach to full-fibre and older networks—one that recognises they are different from 5G in their technology, security and the vendors supporting them. Given that there is only one other appropriate scale vendor for full-fibre equipment, we will embark on a short technical consultation with operators to understand their supply chain alternatives so that we can avoid unnecessary delays to our gigabit ambitions and prevent significant resilience risks. That technical consultation will determine the nature of our rigorous approach to Huawei outside of the 5G networks.

All of those things have implications for the telecoms security Bill. I am fully aware of the commitment I made in this House in March to introduce it before the summer recess. As I am sure Members will appreciate, today’s decision will substantially change what is in the Bill. We will introduce the Bill to the House in the autumn. It is in all our interests for the legislation to be introduced and passed as soon as possible, because—this is the key point—we have to ensure that our telecoms security advice is on a secure statutory footing.

As the House knows, one reason we are in this situation is a global market failure. Put simply, countries around the world—not just the United Kingdom—have become dangerously reliant on too few vendors. We have already set out a clear and ambitious diversification strategy. That strategy will include wide-ranging action in the short, medium and long term, with the aim of driving competition and innovation to grow the market and deliver greater resilience across all our networks.

The strategy will focus on three core elements. First, we need to secure the supply chains of our incumbent non-high-risk vendors by putting in place measures and mitigations that will protect supply chains and ensure there is no disruption to our networks. Secondly, we need to bring new scale vendors into the UK market by removing barriers to entry, providing commercial incentives and creating large-scale opportunities for new vendors to enter the UK markets. Thirdly, we need to address the existing structure of the supply market by investing in research and development and building partnerships between operators and vendors that will mean operators using multiple vendors in a single network will become the standard across the industry.

Success will require a shared commitment between Government and industry to take the necessary steps to address this issue. We are already engaging extensively with operators, vendors and Governments around the world to support and accelerate the process of diversification. We recognise that this is a global issue that requires international collaboration to deliver a lasting solution, so we are working with our Five Eyes partners and our friends around the world to bring together a coalition to deliver our shared goals.

In addition, I know that many Members of this House have considered the Government’s policy on high-risk vendors in the context of the United Kingdom’s wider relationship with China. Let me assure Members that this Government are clear-eyed about China. We have been robust in our response to the imposition of new security laws in Hong Kong, including through our generous offer to British national overseas passport holders. We want a modern and mature relationship with China based on mutual respect where we can speak frankly when we disagree, but also work side-by-side on the issues where our interests converge. Today’s decision, however, is about ensuring the long-term security of our telecoms network, specifically in the light of those new US sanctions.

The security and resilience of our telecoms networks is of paramount importance. We have never compromised, and will never compromise, that security in pursuit of economic prosperity. It is a fact that the US has introduced additional sanctions on Huawei, and as the facts have changed, so has our approach. That is why we have taken the decision that there can be no new Huawei equipment from the end of this year, and set out a clear timetable to exclude Huawei completely by 2027, with an irreversible path implemented by the time of the next election. Telecoms providers will be legally required to implement this by the telecoms security Bill, which we will bring before the House shortly. This important decision secures our networks now and lays the foundations for a world-class telecoms security framework in the future. I commend this statement to the House.

Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Minister (Science, Research and Innovation) 12:50, 14 July 2020

I thank the Secretary of State for giving me advance sight of his statement. All sides of the House agree that the first duty of any Government is to protect their citizens, and we have confidence in our national security services, which go to such lengths to keep us safe. It has been clear for some time that there are serious questions over whether Huawei should be allowed to control large sections of our country’s telecoms networks, yet the Government refused to face reality. Their approach to our 5G capability, Huawei and our national security has been incomprehensibly negligent. The current Education Secretary was sacked as Defence Secretary for leaking parts of the security services’ advice on Huawei, yet the Government went on to ignore large parts of it. In January, the Foreign Secretary said in a statement to the House that the Government would legislate at “the earliest opportunity” on high-risk vendors. They then refused to work with us and their own Back Benchers to enable that to happen. Will the Secretary of State tell us when he will bring forward the legislation on high-risk vendors, including the robust regulatory and enforcement powers required to limit or eliminate their part in our network? “As soon as possible” and “shortly” will not wash any more.

Will the Government publish the security advice on which today’s decision has been taken? What new information have they been given that was not available to them when the initial decisions were made? I would also like to ask the Secretary of State what discussions he has had with the Foreign Secretary and the Trade Secretary on likely retaliation. Where else are we dependent on Chinese suppliers—for example, in our nuclear sector—and how are we working with our democratic allies, including but not limited to the United States, to develop alternatives in these areas? The Secretary of State says that this change is being made in response to US sanctions, but in the past he has emphasised how closely he was working with the United States, so were the sanctions a surprise? Is our security policy being led by the US? Did the very visible human rights violations by the Chinese in Hong Kong and against the Uyghurs play no part in the decision?

The reality is that the original decision on Huawei was made because, over the past decade, this Government have failed to deliver a sustainable plan for our digital economy. Almost exactly a year ago, the “UK Telecoms Supply Chain Review Report” was published. It stated:

“We will develop and pursue a diversification strategy—including by working with our international partners—to ensure a competitive, sustainable and diverse supply chain.”

Now the Secretary of State claims to have set out a “clear and ambitious diversification strategy”. This will come as a surprise to anyone who has looked at the Government’s statements. I would like to ask the Secretary of State: what are the actions to implement the strategy—which has effectively been set out somewhere and which I have not seen—and can he tell me where it is set out?

This is a car crash for our digital economy, but one that could have been visible from outer space. BT and other vendors have put the cost of this decision in the billions. The Secretary of State says £2 billion. What is the basis for that estimate, and how will he ensure that the cost is not passed on to consumers? Today’s announcement refers to 5G, but what are the implications for our emergency services network—a saga even longer than this one, in which BT was planning to use Huawei?

Open standards such as open RAN limit dependence on any one supplier; what is the Secretary of State doing to mandate such standards and open our networks to UK companies such as Cambridge company ip.access and the north-east company Filtronic? Crucially, what proportion of the additional money that is spent will go to UK companies and how many jobs will be created here? The Government recently announced a £500 million investment in bankrupt American satellite broadband provider OneWeb; are similar investments planned for 5G or 6G companies?

Labour has repeatedly offered constructive ideas to get the UK out of the Huawei hole; we have consistently argued to end our national dependence on all high-risk vendors and improve corporate responsibility for global supply chains. This entire saga has shown that the Government cannot sort this mess out on their own. We need a taskforce of industry representatives, academics, start-ups, regional governments and regulators to develop a plan that delivers a UK network capability and secure mobile network in the shortest possible timeframe. Will the Secretary of State commit to that and return to the House regularly to update on progress?

Will the Secretary of State get a grip, get a plan and secure our critical communications infrastructure, our digital economy and our national security?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Lady raised a large number of questions and I will address as many as I can.

The hon. Lady asked when the Bill will be brought back. I do not know if she was listening to my statement, but I said that would be in the autumn and that remains the case. Will we publish the security advice? Yes, we will publish a summary of the security advice; that will contain the essence of it. She asked what was new; the new fact was the US sanctions imposed post-January. That is why we sought the advice from the NCSC. She asked whether we would consider wider relations with and responses to China; of course, the National Security Council considered those matters, but she would not expect me to go into detail on that on the Floor of the House. She asked about working on alternatives; we are already working with all our Five Eyes partners on those alternatives.

The first thing we need to do is ensure that we protect the other two vendors in this market, Nokia and Ericsson. Secondly, we need to get new suppliers in; that starts with Samsung and NEC. My hon. Friend Matt Warman, the Minister with responsibility for digital infrastructure, who is sitting next to me, has had constructive discussions with them, and we are now at the stage of having engagement at a technical level with their officials.

Of course the hon. Lady is entirely right to point to the future, which is an open RAN network. There is currently only one open RAN network in the world, and that is in Japan, and that was in a situation where it started the network from scratch. There are big barriers to doing this, but of course that is the objective we are working towards. That means working with our partners through international institutions to set the right common standards on which we can have an open RAN network, and it means working with the telecoms providers to provide the right incentives for them to switch from a single vendor to the open RAN network. But in the end an open RAN network is going to provide the opportunity for UK providers, alongside providers from other allies and other countries around the world, to start providing that telecoms infrastructure.

I must say however that I find it extraordinary that the hon. Lady spoke for several minutes but still has not said whether she supports the decision; will she be backing it, yes or no? She says that we were negligent, but I would gently remind the hon. Lady that it was the Labour Government that opened the door to Huawei in the first place; it is this Government who are closing it. It was the Labour party that left us reliant on a small number of suppliers; we are diversifying it. And indeed it was the Labour party, as late as 2018, which was advocating for high-risk vendors to be in the network; we have stopped that.

Photo of Julian Knight Julian Knight Chair, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Chair, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Chair, Culture, Media and Sport Sub-committee on Online Harms and Disinformation, Chair, Culture, Media and Sport Sub-committee on Online Harms and Disinformation

May I say that I broadly welcome the tone and content of this statement? After what could be said to have been a significant false start, the Secretary of State has outlined a much more tenable position; after all, our collective security trumps—so to speak—economics. Having said that, we still have a major job to upgrade our digital security infrastructure. Will the Secretary of State make clear what extra measures he will take to ensure that we do not fall further behind our competitors with 5G and gigabyte-capable broadband as a result of disruption caused by the decision, and what it will mean for consumers? Can he assure the House that his decision today is a final one, a future-proofed one, and one that cannot be reversed by any future Government?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. Friend’s point is absolutely right: how do we ensure that this is future-proofed? The first thing that we have said throughout all this is that we will depend on advice from the NCSC and keep our security situation under review. In terms of the irreversibility of the decision to remove Huawei from the 5G network, first, it will be in the Bill, so it will be set out in statute. Secondly, by the end of this Parliament the flow of Huawei equipment into 5G will have stopped, and we will be well through the path of the stop, because we have set out the path to the end of 2027. Unless the Opposition are going to say that they will come into office, immediately repeal all this legislation and instruct all telecoms providers to almost exclusively procure from Huawei, we have dealt with Huawei in the 5G network through this announcement.

Photo of John Nicolson John Nicolson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

Well, well, well. Here we go again—another screeching handbrake turn. When we debated this in January, SNP Members warned the Government that Huawei could not be trusted with our 5G mobile network. Security experts were clear: we should not open up the central nervous system of our modern society to a company owned by the Chinese Communist party. With that characteristic combination of error and overconfidence, the Foreign Secretary opined that I had got my analysis wrong “on all counts”, but it seems not: less than six months later, we are witnessing yet another of the volte-faces that are fast becoming a hallmark of this Government. Small wonder, then, that Ministers and Back Benchers are reluctant to be wheeled out in defence of a Government policy on Monday, knowing that they could be required to argue the polar opposite on Tuesday.

Of course it is right that Huawei should be banned from the UK’s mobile networks, but that is a decision that should have been taken long ago. As I said to the Foreign Secretary in January, had the Government acted in 2018 as the Australians did, our mobile operators’ 5G roll-out plans would have been in an infinitely healthier place. As it is, we will now pay the price for the Government’s ineptitude. We know it, the Secretary of State knows it and increasingly restive Tory Back Benchers know it, so how was it that the Prime Minister thought that China and Huawei could be trusted, or at least managed, in January, but not now in July? Was it that a Brexit Britain was too weak and isolated to upset the world’s second largest economic powerhouse, but that the Government have now been forced to acknowledge that they cannot sacrifice our national security even for Brexit?

Countering the intelligence threat posed by China will require more than just the phase-out of Huawei. It will involve a rethink of our investment in native companies. We must now also work to protect our 999 emergency services network from the fall-out of this decision. Will the Secretary of State outline how exactly he will do so?

We welcome this climbdown. What will the Secretary of State now do, after all the Government’s mistakes, to help us to catch up?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Gentleman talks about the January 2020 advice. That advice was based on advice from the National Cyber Security Centre, which was working with GCHQ. With all respect to the hon. Gentleman, I think that those organisations are probably a better source to rely on than he is. As a result of that advice, we were absolutely clear-eyed about the threat from Chinese vendors; that is why we deemed Huawei and ZTE high-risk vendors, why we banned them from the core of the network, and why we imposed a cap and banned them from the most sensitive elements.

It is, though, a fact that the United States has imposed sanctions on Huawei. The consequence of these sanctions, as we have been advised by the NCSC, is that we can no longer rely upon Huawei equipment. It is therefore in the security interests of the United Kingdom to ban any further use of that equipment by ruling out further purchases of it. That is the right thing to do in the national interest. If the facts change, we change our policy, and that is exactly what we have done. We will then enshrine it in law through the telecoms security Bill.

The hon. Gentleman talked about investment in other companies, and those are important points. We are addressing that through the national security and investment Bill, which will also come before the House. Throughout all this, we have been completely clear-eyed about the threat posed by Chinese companies and taken appropriate steps in relation to it.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee

I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement, but as a result of this decision, we are reliant on just two companies for most of our mobile telecommunications equipment. Along with the delay to 5G that he talked about, this reflects a long-term failure of UK telecoms strategy to anticipate what the country will need and to prepare for it. Is it still his view that, as he said in March, the UK can develop new supply chain capacity “in this Parliament”? Will he come to my Select Committee next week to discuss how he will do it?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Of course, I would be delighted to come to my right hon. Friend’s Select Committee and outline in further detail the steps that we are taking. In essence, those are to secure the existing supplies and then get new ones in, and we are making good progress on that. Ultimately, it is the Open RAN solution, which means doing things such as launching a flagship Open RAN test bed with mobile network operators and establishing an Open RAN systems integration expert centre through the national telecoms lab. We have a whole range of measures that I am happy to talk to him about at length.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

When I was in China with other MPs a couple of years back, our delegation leader, Ken Clarke, kept going on about how this was a golden era for relations between our two countries. Obviously this is another U-turn, along with school dinners, face masks and the NHS surcharge. Could the Government now apply some consistency to their risky regime standards and stop the UK export of telecommunications spyware and wiretaps to Bahrain, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—or did taking back control actually mean handing it over to Trump to settle his old scores and being special relationship poodle?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I think the hon. Lady knows that we have appropriate export controls in relation to all the things that she mentioned.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

Does my right hon. Friend share my concerns after recent coverage of Huawei and security apparatus in the province of Xinjiang, where human rights abuses are taking place against the Uyghur? What strategies or incentives are in place to support domestic telecoms equipment supply capabilities, to ensure that we have home-grown alternatives to Huawei?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. Friend is right to raise the appalling human rights abuses against the Uyghur in Xinjiang province. The United Kingdom has led in the condemnation of that, working with other countries. She talked about the importance of diversification, which several Members have raised. I am happy to report regularly to the House—indeed, I appear before the House for DCMS questions every month—and update it on the progress of all these measures.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

I suspect many folk will be wondering, if the Government are banning a Chinese tech company from our tele- communications industry on the grounds of national security, how come it is safe for them to participate in building a nuclear power station?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The advice that we have received today relates to the impact of the US sanctions. The US has imposed sanctions specifically on 5G. We have analysed the impact of those sanctions. It has undermined the reliability of Huawei equipment, which is why we are now advising, and then will set out in statute, that mobile network operators can no longer purchase that equipment.

Photo of Anthony Mangnall Anthony Mangnall Conservative, Totnes

I welcome the Government’s announcement and the fact that they have listened to Members across the House. It is right that they have taken action from the US approach and its implementation of sanctions. But if the Government are going to be clear-eyed about China, they must also be clear-eyed about the human rights violations reportedly being undertaken by Huawei and its use of slave labour. It is not acceptable for a global Britain to be involved with a company that is perpetually using slave labour in its supply chains. Will my right hon. Friend work with me and Members across the House to ensure that we can bring forward the 2027 date?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I thank my hon. Friend for his support, but I think there are slightly separate questions about the timings and the issue of human rights abuses. He is absolutely right to raise the issue of human rights abuses, and that is something we are addressing through the modern slavery Bill. We should not be having any companies operating in the United Kingdom relying on slavery, so we have introduced the modern slavery Bill. Indeed, there is an amendment that will be considered in the Lords very shortly which deals precisely with that issue, and we are working with peers to address that.

Photo of Daisy Cooper Daisy Cooper Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

I, too, welcome this screeching U-turn. It is ultimately the right decision on the grounds of national security, human rights and British industrial strategy. Does the Secretary of State agree that the best way to mitigate the risks of relying on just two vendors is for the Government to invest in the development of the open radio access network and to open the market to newer smaller entrants. If he does, when will he publish a strategy to achieve that?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. Of course, in the medium to long run, open RAN is the solution. I just have to caution that that is not available immediately, so that is why, in the shorter run, we are also working on trying to introduce further existing vendors into the United Kingdom, principally Samsung and NEC.

Photo of Flick Drummond Flick Drummond Conservative, Meon Valley

Can I also welcome the Secretary of State’s statement, but will he commit the Government to further financial support for research and development to enable the UK telecommunications industry to move fast so that we can fill the gap as quickly as possible?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. Of course the Chancellor was at the National Security Council when we were discussing this, clearly in order to facilitate the open RAN solution that will require investment from the Government, but that will be a matter for the Chancellor at a future fiscal event.

Photo of Stephen Flynn Stephen Flynn Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Financial Secretary)

The Secretary of State has been particularly clear that Huawei will not be asked to deliver the UK’s 5G network, but he has been conspicuously quiet in relation to when the 5G network will now be complete across the UK. So can he clarify for me and for Members across the Chamber: when will 5G be delivered across the United Kingdom, and at what cost?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

We set out our position in the manifesto, but as a consequence of these decisions things have changed. I have been very frank and up front with the House about this. The consequence of the decision to stop the flow of Huawei equipment into 5G and to set a very firm date for 2027 and the pathway to that will add two to three years to the delivery time.

Photo of David Jones David Jones Conservative, Clwyd West

The Chinese Government have of late struck an increasingly aggressive posture against countries such as Australia and India, and also against this country, effectively tearing up the Sino-British declaration and imposing draconian laws on Hong Kong. When it learned of calls from this place for the exclusion of Huawei from our national telecoms infrastructure, its ambassador threatened this country with unspecified consequences. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that threat confirms not only the close connection between Huawei and the Chinese Government, but the fact that the right decision has been made today?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. This Government will not be cowed by the comments of any other country, and indeed this decision has been made in the national security interests of this nation. He is absolutely right to raise the abuses in Hong Kong and the Foreign Secretary has dealt with that extensively.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Labour, Denton and Reddish

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research says that removing Huawei from 5G infrastructure will lead to higher prices and, as the Secretary of State has already said to the House, also a delayed roll-out, so what will his Department be doing to ensure that this decision does not increase the digital divide that exists in this country, and what conversations has he had or will he be having with local authorities about the impact of planned infrastructure work?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Member is absolutely right to raise the point about a digital divide, and that is something that my Department is working on extensively —for example, in ensuring that there is more handheld equipment and all those sorts of things for people who do not currently have mobile phone technology. We have invested a lot of money in relation to that.

On his point about local authorities, our manifesto commitment set a highly ambitious target of full fibre roll-out by 2025, which is creating huge investment across the country. Indeed, a telecoms provider recently announced 10,000 new jobs. There is lots of potential for new jobs in this area.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Conservative, Chipping Barnet

Significant disruption to either mobile or broadband services could have a disastrous impact on essential services, so will the Secretary of State assure the House that everything possible is being done to mitigate and manage the risk resulting from Huawei’s continued involvement in our telecoms infrastructure?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Of course, we continue to manage and mitigate that risk, which is why we announced in January the cap and exclude measures, which we are reinforcing with a pathway to having zero Huawei in our 5G by 2027. We will continue to work on the security risks around Huawei, particularly through the Huawei evaluation centre in GCHQ.

Photo of Gavin Robinson Gavin Robinson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Defence)

The Secretary of State has twice referred to the Five Eyes partnership, and made a more oblique reference to wider alliances. He has made no reference to the D10 alliance—the G7 countries, Australia, South Korea and India—that was trailed five weeks ago. Has that alliance been established, does it exist, is there a unity of purpose, and are the other members of the proposed alliance at one with us on the decision made today?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the D10 alliance, which was proposed not by the UK Government but, I believe, by the Atlantic Forum. We are working with all the D10 countries on this, and with Japan, South Korea and others, where we have a lot of interest in that.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

There could be offsets to the delay and cost if, as a result of this, we design and manufacture many more of the components we need here at home. What exactly can the Government do to make that more likely to create jobs and technology?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My right hon. Friend is right to raise the point, which is the opportunity created by open RAN technology. It will take a very long time, were the UK minded to do so, to create a new mobile vendor like Ericsson, Nokia or indeed Huawei, but with open RAN we can get UK technologies into the provision of telecoms infrastructure, and that can sit alongside contributions from other like-minded countries around the world. That is how we will create jobs and provide a long-lasting solution.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Chair, Committee on Standards, Chair, Committee on Standards, Chair, Committee of Privileges, Chair, Committee of Privileges

Basically, the Government’s mobile telephony strategy is in tatters. What is particularly sad is that it was not only predictable; it was predicted, by dozens of Members of Parliament who kept saying to the Government that this was where we would get to in the end. I just wish they sometimes would listen to their own Back Benchers, and obviously Opposition Back Benchers as well. There is unity in the House on this matter, and there has been for some time.

The Secretary of State is like St Augustine: “make me chaste—but not yet.” All he is offering us is a path towards getting rid of these some time in 2027, after the next general election. He will not even tell us when autumn is. Will he tell us precisely when he will publish his Bill, when it will be enacted and why he cannot bring forward the date from 2027?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

As ever, the hon. Gentleman is very good at false indignation and theatrics, but in reality it is this Government, unlike the last Labour Government, who have, for the first time, set out a clear date, which will be enshrined in statute, to remove Huawei equipment, and we are stopping the flow into the networks. To do all that, we have to bring forward the telecoms security Bill, which I have said will happen in the autumn. I believe that autumn falls in the months of September, October and November.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Chair, Defence Committee, Chair, Defence Committee, Chair, Defence Sub-Committee, Chair, Defence Sub-Committee

May I ask humbly that we distinguish between the people of China and the Communist regime?  It is the latter that for years we have tried to appease in the hope that it would mature into a global citizen, and that clearly has not happened. President Xi seeks superpower status, but now with a competing vision of world order. I therefore very much welcome the announcement today. Has the Secretary of State shared it with the Five Eyes community and, indeed, our US friends?

However, we should also expect repercussions from China, and to that end I strongly believe that this must be the start of a wider strategic foreign policy reset. Tactical announcements about sending carriers to the South China sea are all very well, but they must form part of a wider international collective western resolve to defend our values and our standards, in which China is very much welcome to participate and I hope the UK will play a leading role.

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. He is absolutely right to distinguish between the people of China and the Chinese Government. China is a wonderful country; I have very much enjoyed visiting it on occasions in the past, and there are some very warm people there. The difference is the Government of China and some of the abuses, particularly of the rule of law and human rights, that we have seen there. In the context of telecommunications security, we have an opportunity to work with our allies. If we can develop this open RAN technology of the future, it will provide an opportunity not just to benefit us but to benefit them, and indeed to further secure our infrastructure and make it more resilient.

Photo of Tulip Siddiq Tulip Siddiq Shadow Minister (Education)

There were severe warnings from network providers over the weekend that stripping Huawei equipment out of our networks too quickly could lead to signal blackouts. Our national security must of course come first, but the Government promised a levelling up of network infra- structure, which certainly would not be consistent with blackouts. What assurances can the Minister give my constituents that they will not have to endure that kind of disruption?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise the risk of that kind of disruption and blackouts. That was one of the reasons that led us to the timetable that we have set out. Put bluntly, the shorter the timetable for the removal, the higher the risk of that happening, but I can tell the hon. Lady, her constituents and people up and down the country that this risk will not materialise in relation to the proposals that we have outlined today.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement and his willingness to take tough decisions, particularly when, as the China Research Group believes, they are in the national interest. With the EU President recently having had to take Beijing to task over its cyber-attacks on EU hospitals treating patients for coronavirus, does this action from the Government not send the message loud and clear to the Chinese state that our future relationship must be based on trust, and our trade on a fair and level playing field?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the issue of cyber-attacks. I caution, though, that cyber-attacks will not be prevented by removing Huawei equipment from the system. There are vulnerabilities across the network, and indeed one reason that we are introducing the telecoms security Bill is to start to address some of those. We have seen—it is in the public domain—that hostile Russian actors, for example, have already been able to attack our networks. With regard to the wider position on China, we need to have a full and frank relationship with China, and we have done that, but this announcement is principally about the US sanctions.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Chief Secretary)

No matter how hard the Secretary of State tries to disguise it, this is a humiliating U-turn by a Government being forced to admit that they got it wrong in January. What assessment has been made of the additional damage to the economy, the additional cost to public finances in the UK, and the additional cost to devolved nations of the UK, of this Government taking the decision today that everyone knows they should have taken six months ago?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that he cannot simultaneously urge us to take a faster course, which the SNP did previously, and attack us for the consequence of that in terms of cost. One thing leads to the other.

Photo of Mark Fletcher Mark Fletcher Conservative, Bolsover

I very much welcome today’s announcement. The Government committed in their manifesto to improving mobile connectivity in rural constituencies like mine. Will my right hon. Friend comment on how this decision will affect plans for improving rural networks in Derbyshire and elsewhere?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

This announcement should not impact rural networks and the way that, as my hon. Friend describes, we have made huge advances by signing the deal for a single rural network, which will help places like Derbyshire.

Photo of Charlotte Nichols Charlotte Nichols Labour, Warrington North

The UK has great science start-ups—indeed, Warrington is considered the second-best start-up location in the UK, and we are proudly a key engine of growth for the northern powerhouse. What proportion of the additional money spent to take Huawei out of our networks will go to UK companies? How many jobs will be created here? Will that investment be seen across the regions and nations of the UK?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The commitment we have made for full fibre throughout the country, with an ambitious target of 2025, will cause huge amounts of investment up and down the country, including in the hon. Lady’s constituency. In addition to that, as we seek to develop an open RAN solution, there will be opportunities for universities and others to contribute to that solution.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

The Secretary of State’s announcement is a delicate balancing act between security, economics and geopolitics, and it shifts the supply of “Made in China” equipment from Huawei to “Made in China” equipment from the 25,000 Nokia and Ericsson employees there, creating a new duopoly of 5G telecoms provision until such a time as there is a credible Anglo-Saxon alternative. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, as one of the goals in respect of leaving the EU was for a new global Britain to develop deeper relations with growth nations, including in Asia, we must continue to find space to work closely with China on issues of mutual benefit, as well as to confront her on issues in respect of which our values require it?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to distinguish between confronting on issues such as human rights and having an open commercial relationship with China, clearly subject to the rule of law. That is the approach that we continue to pursue, notwithstanding this announcement.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady SNP Chief Whip

The diminishing number of people in Scotland who still vote Tory tend to live in remote and rural areas, so I am sure they will be delighted that by the Government’s own admission they are breaching their manifesto promise to roll out 5G—and as a result of decisions that they have taken. It is therefore not illegitimate for us to ask about the consequences in terms of the delays to the infrastructure and the costs. What discussions, if any, has the Secretary of State had with Scotland and the other devolved Administrations about the impact of today’s decision?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. Friend the Minister for Digital Infrastructure, who is sat next to me, will be having exactly those further conversations with the devolved nations. I did not hear him say it at the time, but I would have thought the hon. Gentleman would have welcomed our announcement of the shared rural network, which was a groundbreaking deal that brought Government money together with the telecoms networks to massively improve connectivity—particularly in Scotland, where it had not been the case previously—up to well over 90% coverage. That is an amazing achievement.

Photo of Aaron Bell Aaron Bell Conservative, Newcastle-under-Lyme

I thank the Secretary of State for his statement, which I welcome. Does he agree that now is the time to invest in our own domestic 5G capacity to support our future critical communications infrastructure? To that end, I urge him and his ministerial colleagues to consider seriously the Staffordshire proposal for a 5G connected region growth deal, which would establish both the first regional commercial 5G network in the UK and a wide-area test- and-innovation network to support our future aspirations in this policy area.

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

As ever, my hon. Friend is a robust advocate for his constituency. Exactly those conversations are going on now.

Photo of Navendu Mishra Navendu Mishra Labour, Stockport

The Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre was first set up by the National Cyber Security Centre some 10 years ago. Huawei has been considered a high-risk vendor by three Prime Ministers, so why has decisive action taken so long? Many of the European alternatives to Huawei manufacture parts in China; are the Government looking at the security implications of that?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

We look at the security implications of whole supply chains, which is exactly what the National Cyber Security Centre has been doing—and that applies not just to Huawei but to the other vendors. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight this issue. Simply removing Huawei from 5G networks does not deal with all the security risks, which is why we need to bring forward the telecoms security Bill as part of our efforts to enhance security.

Photo of Duncan Baker Duncan Baker Conservative, North Norfolk

I welcome what the Secretary of State, the Prime Minister and the Government have done, putting national security in front of profit and telling the world that this sovereign nation will not be pushed around by any country. Will the Secretary of State reassure me that we will still be able to work at breakneck speed to roll-out a 5G network throughout the country with credible, trustworthy partners? We should also recognise that as technology moves on, a lot of this stuff will be done through software, not necessarily through hardware.

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. Friend makes an important point about software versus hardware; indeed, that goes to some of the wider discussions around open RAN. We will of course always put national security first, which is what we have done with this statement today.

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

There has been a failure of successive Governments both in the United Kingdom and around the world in ensuring that we have sovereign capability not just in telecoms vendors but in other areas of emergent technology. That is precisely why we are bringing forward an investment security Bill to greater empower the Government to take decisions to protect our national interest in relation to investment in companies.

Photo of Richard Drax Richard Drax Conservative, South Dorset

We know that the few existing vendors rely on component parts from China, and I suspect that will continue for some time. To make our move successful, other countries in the west must come into line with us. What guarantee can my right hon. Friend give that other countries will follow us and thereby ensure that Huawei and Chinese influence is completely out of whatever network we set up?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

As my hon. Friend will be aware, the US and Australia have already taken such decisions, the Canadians have a similar analysis to us but have yet to take a decision on it, and New Zealand has a slightly different process. Each country around the world is looking at how best to protect its telecoms networks, but also—crucially—how to develop its own domestic alternatives. The way to address that is by working co-operatively such as through open RAN.

Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Education)

In January, the Government announced that Huawei would be limited to 35% of the network but crucially not be in its core. While I welcome the U-turn, I must point out that Huawei is already in the core of EE’s 4G network—5G, of course, is layered on top—and BT has said that it will take years to remove it. How will the Secretary of State mitigate the risk posed by Huawei’s continued presence in the core of EE’s network?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The first point is that all that equipment will have been approved by the Huawei cell in GCHQ. In addition, that is why we introduced the ban on Huawei from the core, and we have now set out the path down to zero.

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright Conservative, Kenilworth and Southam

It is clear that the latest US sanctions have changed the landscape, so it is reasonable for the Government to change their approach on Huawei. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be naive to believe that the only threat to the UK telecommunications network will come from Huawei equipment, or even solely from China, so the appropriate response is to ensure that the whole network is secure, wherever the threat may come from?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

As ever, my right hon. and learned Friend, and predecessor, is correct. It is just the reality that telecoms networks will always be vulnerable, particularly to sophisticated hostile state actors, so we are bringing forward a telecoms security Bill to seek to address that. We should not kid ourselves into thinking that there is a panacea and that with one silver bullet we remove the risk by banning Huawei.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Labour, Swansea West

The Secretary of State focuses on delays and costs, but he also knows that Huawei has contracts in the Xinjiang public security bureau to deliver digital surveillance that oppresses a million Muslims. It also benefits from the slave trade. Does he agree that in any major public procurement contract, there should be due diligence on human rights? Why has he not done so in this case?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

It is not actually the UK Government who are procuring from Huawei; it is the mobile network operators who do so. However, the hon. Member’s point about modern slavery is correct, and that is why we brought forward the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Of course, such considerations are undertaken for public procurement.

Photo of Mark Logan Mark Logan Conservative, Bolton North East

Given that successive British Governments since the early 2000s have worked to encourage Huawei and other private companies from China to invest in the UK, what message do we feel this change will send in terms of consistency as a long-term reliable international partner? Has it been examined as part of wider strategic policy for Britain’s place in the world post Brexit?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this point. The United Kingdom prides itself on the rule of law, a rules-based system and consistency, and that will remain the case, and of course we will welcome Chinese investment and investment from around the world. What has changed here are the US sanctions, and, as a result of those sanctions, we can no longer rely on Huawei equipment. Therefore, it is in the national interest to introduce this ban on new purchases from the beginning of the year.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green

I welcome the decision to eradicate Huawei from the 5G system, but I think that the Secretary of State can do it quicker than he says. I was listening to the “Today” programme the other day, and the head of BT said seven years, yes, but it could be done in five. Let us bring it forward to five, and make sure that it happens quickly. There is no reason why that cannot be done. The key point I want to make is that there are two contradictions in the Secretary of State’s statement. Having said that he is getting rid of Huawei in 5G, it is apparently fine for it to continue in 4G and 3G; it can go on for as long as anyone. It will be upgraded in software upgrades for the next decade. If it is a risk in 5G, why is it not a risk to us generally? Secondly, on human rights, we know that Huawei has lied in its declaration under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 that it has had no involvement in slavery. We know that now from Xinjiang Province. If we can prove that and are able to demonstrate it to this Government, will this Government ban Huawei altogether?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My right hon. Friend raises the distinction between 4G, 3G and 5G. First, 5G is the new technology. It is the successor to 3G and 4G. Indeed, as he said to this House previously, the reality of the 5G network is that it is fundamentally different, and it is a recognition of that fundamental difference that we are imposing these rules in respect of 5G. Of course, over time, 5G will be the replacement network and then, in turn, 5G will be replaced by 6G and, in all of that, Huawei will be absent.

Photo of Damian Collins Damian Collins Conservative, Folkestone and Hythe

I welcome the statement, but the report of the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre Oversight Board says that there are existing cyber security risks to the Huawei network in the UK, which the company has no credible plan to remedy. What will the Secretary State be doing to seek to address those existing cyber-security risks in the network before 2027?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Obviously, the most blunt way of doing that is to ban the flow from the beginning of the year and then address the stock to 2027. In advance of that, we will also be imposing much tougher conditions on all of the mobile network operators through the telecoms security Bill. Essentially, that will shift the balance from the Communications Act 2003, whereby it was up to the mobile network operators to determine how best to ensure security, to this legislation that will involve the Government setting out those requirements, and they will address those sort of issues.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

Will the Minister confirm that the problem is not with Huawei’s hardware, but with its software? As part of his open RAN solution, might an alternative be to mandate the use of open-source software rather than proprietary software in the 5G network?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to make the point about open-source software, and we will certainly encourage that to happen. That greater transparency will help as we roll out the open RAN networks. It is the case that the Huawei evaluation centre in GCHQ does look at both hardware and software issues.

Photo of David Johnston David Johnston Conservative, Wantage

With regard to our other networks, people in the telecoms industry have suggested to me that it is not actually as difficult to replace the equipment as the representatives of the industry suggest. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that, in his technical consultation about supply chain alternatives, he will push them to distinguish between things they prefer not to have to do and things that are genuinely impossible?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. Friend raises an important point. Of course we will do that. It is just worth bearing in mind with all of this that it is not just one decision, but the cumulative impact of all those decisions. We imposed restrictions in January. We are imposing further restrictions on banning the procurement and then we are imposing further restrictions again in 2027. We will just get to a point on the deliverability of this.

Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence)

I welcome the decision inasmuch as it is progress of a kind, but let us not be so myopic as to think that the victory is complete; it is not. As long as Huawei continues to have its tentacles in other key elements of public infrastructure and academia in our universities across the country—it is giving huge sums to outfits such as the London School of Economics—we still have an issue. Has the myopia really come to an end? Is the decision part of a broader strategy to get Huawei out of places it ought not to be?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Today’s announcement relates principally to the imposition of sanctions by the US Government and the consequences of that. The wider points the hon. Gentleman raises are likely to be addressed through the investment security Bill, which will come before the House.

Photo of Greg Smith Greg Smith Conservative, Buckingham

I add my voice to the welcome for this vital decision in the interests of national security. Building on the question from my hon. Friend Mark Fletcher, although for many of my constituents in rural Buckinghamshire 5G will be game-changing, to put it bluntly, any reliable mobile signal will be life-changing. What assurance can my right hon. Friend give me that the incredible shared rural network can be pushed up the agenda and delivered faster than currently scheduled?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

As my hon. Friend knows, we signed the deal for the shared rural network just a few months ago. That was incredible progress and we will continue to challenge it to go further and faster. In addition, I am aware when we talk about getting full fibre to the premises that many people are still struggling with getting superfast, so we also need to make sure we get superfast to the remaining 4% of households in the UK.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham

Security of our telecoms network is the vital issue here. That is why I supported the Government’s announcement earlier this year on Huawei. They have caved in to pressure from the United States and their own Back Benchers. Some of those Back Benchers who were in government during the golden years of the relationship with China and said nothing then about human rights have now found their conscience. In the telecoms Bill, the Secretary of State is going to ban Huawei, but if the United States changes its position, can we take Huawei out of the legislation? Will we ban Nokia and Ericsson from using components manufactured in China, as they do now? Will he be honest with the public? It is not about the hardware; it is about hacking and the software. That is what we should be concentrating on, not this.

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The right hon. Gentleman is right to highlight the wider risks to the network. As I have said repeatedly, both previously and today, we would be exceptionally naive to think that just by removing Huawei, we remove that risk. Sophisticated hostile state actors can of course infiltrate our networks. That is why we are toughening up considerably the security of our networks through the telecoms security Bill, and I think that is the correct approach.

Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight

I welcome much of what the Minister has said and am grateful to him for coming here. This does look like a long, slow goodbye to Huawei, but does he understand the concerns of some Members that seven years is a very long time in politics and it would be better were it to be done sooner? Also, does he understand that perhaps the lesson from all this is that for a host of reasons—economic, security, geopolitics —high-risk vendors should not be in our critical national infrastructure?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I thank my hon. Friend for his constructive comments. I genuinely understand the concerns about speed expressed by him and other Members. That point was considered extensively by the National Security Council, and in the end we made a balanced judgment. We believe that by having 2027 as the target, by the end of this Parliament we will have put in law an irreversible process for removal. The risk of going faster relates to the integrity of the network and the challenges in that respect. I would rather we got to a point where we had got it out completely by 2027, and I think that is a realistic timetable for doing so.