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Huawei and 5G — [Ian Paisley in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green 9:30 am, 4th March 2020

Yes, I agree. My hon. Friend makes a very good point. In fact, I have read a note from Samsung declaring that it is completely feasible to do this work without any involvement from Huawei. Indeed, Samsung made very clear its belief that Huawei is a direct threat to our national security because its system is not a trusted one.

Far from Huawei having some insurmountable technological lead, it seems, when one starts to investigate, that the quality of its work is no better than anybody else’s, and in some cases somewhat worse. I recall even Dr Ian Levy, the technical director of GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre, saying about a year ago that Huawei’s security was “very, very shoddy”. He also said that

“it’s engineering like it’s back in the year 2000”.

We need to take stock of this nonsense propaganda that Huawei is light years ahead as an organisation. Yes, it has a lot of people in research and development, but the reality is that its development has been about money.

The Government say that telecommunications companies are all reliant on Huawei. It was said earlier in the debate that telcos are absolutely reliant on Huawei, so delay would leave them significantly out of pocket. According to that line of argument, however, I would argue that reducing Huawei’s involvement to even 35% would leave telcos out of pocket, so we are already halfway there, as it were. It seems daft to try to make that argument.

Of course, the reliance on Huawei comes as a result of it having constantly bid well below other market competitors for UK and other business. After all, there is a long history of the China Development Bank providing low-cost financing for Huawei customers, and that approach is updated every few years. A recent report estimates that, when one takes in tax breaks, grants and low-cost land acquisitions, the subsidy comes to more than $75 billion. No western company in this sector will be able to compete on those grounds.

Despite all that, it is not common knowledge that at least one very significant UK service provider has contacted me to say that it has already made clear that it will not use Huawei in its 5G network. O2 suggests that the idea that these systems cannot be created without Huawei—my hon. Friend Tom Tugendhat mentioned this earlier—is complete and utter nonsense.

The NCSC’s guidance does not even mention services. I understand that Huawei is now taking over the managed services for another operator, Three, which opens up yet another huge area to gather information from. If someone has a map of a radio network, they will also have a map of everything connected to that radio network. They will know what each piece is, what it does and how to attack it.

Yet our dependence on Huawei goes even deeper—much deeper than many people realise. I have just noticed that Huawei is present in the emergency services network, which is often referred to as the blue lamp or blue light service. The service is part of our critical national infrastructure, but the issue did not come out in the statements. I am astonished that that would be allowed. We can imagine how dangerous any form of disruption would be to that service. It beggars belief. Then I discovered that MI5 uses a systems provider that is heavily dependent on Huawei equipment. These decisions are barking mad.