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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:01 am on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight 10:01 am, 4th March 2020

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley. I congratulate my right hon. Friend Sir Iain Duncan Smith on securing the debate. In the four minutes that I have I shall go through some of the important points that have not been covered. Huawei is a high-risk vendor and should not be in our critical national infrastructure. That is the first significant mistake that this Government have made. How bad and how serious it becomes will be obvious in time. I want to cover not only national security, which my right hon. Friend has eloquently spoken about, but data privacy, our values, our alliances, and, critically, other issues around the competence of Huawei, and fair trade and economics.

I still do not understand why the Government continue to claim that Huawei is a private firm. The point has been made already that it is 99% owned by Chinese trade unions, so will the Minister explain why he and previous Ministers—certainly previous Ministers—have argued that Huawei is a private firm when to all intents and purposes it is part and parcel of the Chinese state? The Government claim that Huawei can be safely limited to the periphery of a network. Most experts and many security agencies say not. I quote Mike Burgess, head of Australia’s version of GCHQ:

“The distinction between core and edge collapses in 5G networks. That means that a potential threat anywhere in the network will be a threat to the whole network.”

Will the Minister comment on that? One of Mike Burgess’s senior directors, Simeon Gilding, tried to design a system that could have a high-risk vendor in Australia’s five G network. He failed and said it was not possible. He said that the British

“think they can manage the risk but we don’t think that is plausible given Huawei would be subject to direction from hostile intelligence services.”

Again, will the Minister comment on that? Are there espionage issues with Huawei? They are multiple. Chinese national intelligence law states that citizens have to co-operate. Furthermore, it states that the information that Huawei gets from the UK is the property of the Chinese state. Again, will the Minister comment?

China has a dreadful reputation for cyber-attacks. Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers have been charged with the 2017 cyber-security security attack on Equifax, which included data on millions of Britons. Why does the Minister think the Chinese want to collect so much information on so many millions of people in the west? That applies not only to Britons, but the 21.5 million files they stole on US federal employees in 2015. Can the Huawei Cell offer reassurances? Not really. It states that the Cell

“can only provide limited assurance that all risks to UK national security from Huawei's involvement...can be sufficiently mitigated”.

It complained that no material progress was being made by Huawei on the concerns of 2018, and it continued to identify security issues. Are there other security issues? Yes, for sure there are. I quote Finite State, a respected US company:

“Huawei devices quantitatively pose a high risk to their users.. In virtually all categories we studied, we found Huawei devices to be less secure.”

Bloomberg reported that Vodafone in several countries found illicit backdoors on Huawei technology. In March 2019, Microsoft uncovered Huawei MateBook systems running a system whereby unauthorised people could create super-user privileges. There are significant industrial espionage issues with Huawei. Will the Minister comment on those?

We know about Huawei’s involvement in China’s human rights abuses. It works closely with the state in Xinjiang province. Indeed, it boasts about it. In this country, it is a private company. In China, it is part and parcel of the state apparatus. I would love a comment from the Minister. Huawei claims it is a market leader. According to Chris Balding, an academic who studies Huawei, it is not. It is ranked fourth to sixth globally. It has a $100 billion credit line from the China Development Bank, which means that, apart from any other questionable business practices it has—we have been told of quite a few—it can undercut by 30% to 50% any other vendor. By allowing Huawei in the system, we effectively allow data privacy issues, damage to our alliances, and damage to free trade. We do western companies out of business so that we will have to become reliant in due course on China’s 5G as part of a significant power play in our critical national infrastructure.