UK MPs call on govt to issue Huawei review

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LONDON:  A UK parliamentary committee has called on the government to publish a delayed review into the role of Huawei Technologies Ltd by the end of August, saying there could be reasons to ban the Chinese company from Britain’s phone networks. The Science and Technology Committee decided there was no technical reason to ban Huawei entirely from the UK’s infrastructure, but the government should formally block it from the most sensitive core of its mobile networks, said committee chairman Norman Lamb in a letter published on Monday.

However, there may be ethical or geopolitical grounds to institute a wider ban, he added.

Huawei has been accused of supplying equipment in Western China that could be enabling serious human rights abuses. The evidence we heard during our evidence session did little to assure us that this is not the case, wrote Lamb in an e-mailed statement. The committee’s role is advisory and it cannot force the government to act on its recommendations. The government had previously aimed to issue the review findings by last month.

Huawei is a leading supplier of fifth-generation wireless systems that promise to fix data bottlenecks in busy areas and open up more sophisticated mobile applications such as augmented reality gaming and mapping. The US has been urging its allies to exclude the vendor entirely from 5G networks, arguing that China’s government could use it for espionage or disrupting critical infrastructure, allegations the company has denied.

Asked to comment on the UK committee’s findings, a Huawei spokesman referred to a recent comment by the company’s Global Security Officer John Suffolk, who said the actions of its customers under local laws are not a matter for Huawei. Publication of the long-awaited review into the UK’s telecommunications supply chain – which includes the role played by Huawei – has been complicated by the lack of momentum in government since Prime Minister Theresa May announced she was stepping down.

The ruling Conservative Party is due to name its new leader next week, with front-runner Boris Johnson expected to hold off a challenge from Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. In another sign that Parliament is keeping a close watch over the Huawei issue, a separate committee that scrutinises national security strategy on Monday began a separate inquiry into the security implications of having so few 5G suppliers.

The government has found itself in a situation where it has just three viable options for suppliers of key equipment for the UK’s 5G infrastructure but cannot afford to put all our eggs in one or two baskets, said committee chairman Margaret Beckett.

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