Telecommunications (Security) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:53 pm on 29 June 2021.

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Photo of Baroness Morgan of Cotes Baroness Morgan of Cotes Conservative 2:53, 29 June 2021

My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak in this debate. In the time available, I want to welcome the Bill, which, as we have already heard, delivers on promised made by the Government and Ministers in 2019 and 2020: that a comprehensive telecoms security framework would be put in place. As my noble friend the Minister said, this is a comprehensive security framework that will provide an opportunity to look beyond just one company or one country of concern. As we have heard from previous speakers, over the years there will of course be more threats and more areas and companies of concern that will arise.

I agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, that of course this is a first step. As we know, with security threats and with emerging technology, over the years a more comprehensive response will be needed, but I think the Government are to be congratulated that the midst of the disruption over the last 15 months, this telecoms security framework Bill has been brought forward as was promised. The other side to this, as we have already heard, is noble Lords’ desire to hear about the pace and rollout of the diversification strategy. My noble friend the Minister will, I hope, be taking this from the House and be able to address it in her comments.

As noble Lords will be aware, the use of 5G technologies, the importance of 5G to the delivery of the internet of things, the use of artificial intelligence and other technologies, are only going to grow. Just this morning, I was part of this House’s Covid-19 Committee listening to evidence about the increase, as we have seen, of course, of people working from home over the last year, running their businesses from home and, as some of us have seen more closely than others, home schooling—which we all hope there will be no need for again in future. Without secure, reliable and resilient broadband internet and 5G connectivity, we will put ourselves at a disadvantage as a country.

The need for that resilience—as well as having secure networks—means that if we are asking companies to take out the technology from a particular other supplier, or to not use technology from particular countries in future, for extremely understandable, wise and prescient security reasons, we will need to make sure that we build up a secure, long-lasting and sustainable supply chain strategy in this country. This may not relate only to domestic companies; we have allies around the world and will want to be able to work with other companies and countries around the world to make sure we have that diversity of the supply chain. The lack of diversity has been referred to as a market failure, and I think that was correct. The Government have now very much got on top of this and got ahead of this. I hope the Minister will, as the Bill goes through this House—I will have great pleasure in supporting it as it does—and in future, be able to keep the House updated about the delivery of that diversification of the supply chain, as was announced by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State in November last year. I wish the Bill every success as it proceeds.