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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:17 am on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 10:17 am, 4th March 2020

Thank you, Mr Paisley. It is a pleasure to speak in the debate. I thank Sir Iain Duncan Smith for introducing it, for setting the scene so well, and for speaking for the majority of us in this House and in the Chamber today, and the majority of those outside as well.

I am no tech expert—far from it—yet I have had concerns from the outset about the safety of allowing Huawei into the 5G network. When I find myself at a loss regarding the nuances of an issue, I always turn to those who understand it much better. For that purpose, I have looked at the relations of other nations with Huawei, and the facts cannot be ignored. My concerns have led me to question the Minister, today and on previous occasions.

Security and democracy must have priority. Defence of the realm, as the right hon. Member referred to, for this great nation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland must be protected. Our first duty must always be to our citizens and constituents. They have told me that they share the deep concerns that so far all Members bar one have expressed in the Chamber today.

My fears and concerns have not been assuaged since the question I asked the then Minister, Jeremy Wright, in April last year. I said:

“Huawei has been banned from the core of 5G, but it is to be allowed to operate at the edge. The edge includes masts and antennas, which are also very sensitive. Canada and New Zealand have expressed concern, and Australia and the United States of America have said there is no relevant distinction between the core and the edge of 5G networks. What discussions has the Minister had with those four countries, and has their determination had any influence on our decision?”—[Official Report, 25 April 2019;
Vol. 658, c. 892.]

The then Minister’s response was that discussions with our Five Eyes partners were ongoing, yet we appear to have dismissed that, while still allowing that there is a safety implication of Chinese interference and reliance on that technology. Again, I find myself uneasy and desirous that, even at this stage, we rethink this massive step. That is the feeling of the majority in the Chamber.

China is guilty of some of the worst, barbarous, evil, surgical human rights abuses against its own citizens. Mr Carmichael and others have referred to the Uyghur Muslims, but it is not just them; there are also the Christians, the Falun Gong, and many other people. China has tried to re-educate them through forced labour and surveillance of what they are doing, and has used Huawei 5G to do so. Huawei has also been deeply involved in organ harvesting—commercial harvesting of organs from people who just happen to have a different faith.

The Financial Post has given this summary:

The United Kingdom has now broken ranks with many of its closest allies”— allies in whom we have great trust—

“including fellow members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing club. The British government classified Chinese company as a ‘high-risk vendor’
and banned it from the core network that manages access and authentication, but nevertheless permitted it to compete for up to 35 percent market share in the country’s access network—that is, its antennae and similar equipment.”

I am only one of 650 Members of this House, and I absolutely believe in the tenets of democracy, but I will not stay silent. I do not believe that what the Government are doing is in the best security interests of this nation, and if steps can be taken to pare it back, those steps must be taken. We have been known as security giants, and I do not like the idea that we are now standing on the shoulders of Chinese giants. We have stood alone, and can do so again, but it is always best that we stand with our allies. The Chinese may hopefully be strong trading partners post Brexit, but by no stretch of the imagination can they ever be considered our allies; their human rights abuses cannot be ignored. This issue is concerning, and we must not leave it here.