UK Telecommunications

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:50 pm on 14th July 2020.

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Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 12:50 pm, 14th July 2020

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.