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Norfolk MP fears giving Chinese firm Huawei role in UK 5G network is 'bad decision'

PUBLISHED: 07:18 24 April 2019 | UPDATED: 08:06 24 April 2019

Chinese tech giant Huawei has reportedly been given the go ahead  to help build Britains new 5G network  Pic: AP Photo/Kin Cheung.

Chinese tech giant Huawei has reportedly been given the go ahead to help build Britains new 5G network Pic: AP Photo/Kin Cheung.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

A Norfolk MP has warned a decision to allow Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to help build Britain's new 5G network will prove to be a "bad decision", amid warnings of the potential threat to national security.

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman. Picture: Keiron TovellMid Norfolk MP George Freeman. Picture: Keiron Tovell

The National Security Council (NSC), which is chaired by prime minister Theresa May agreed on Tuesday to allow the firm limited access to build “noncore” infrastructure such as antennas, according to The Daily Telegraph.

A number of ministers, including Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt were said to have raised concerns about the decision, according to the Telegraph.

And Conservative Mid Norfolk George Freeman added his voice to the concerns. He posted on Twitter: “I fear this may prove to be a bad decision, with major strategic data security and contract issues.

“Only a few weeks ago the excellent Malcolm Turnbull, former Prime Minister of Australia was here warning against this very decision.”

Downing Street refused to comment on the report. A spokeswoman said: “We don't comment on NSC discussions.”

The decision comes after a number of senior security figures warned publicly of the risks entailed in allowing a Chinese firm access to the UK's critical communications network.

MI6 chief Alex Younger has said Britain needs to decide how “comfortable” it is in allowing Chinese firms to become involved while the head of GCHQ Jeremy Fleming has spoken of both “opportunities and threats” which they present.

Some critics have expressed concerns that the Chinese government could require the firm to install technological “back doors” to enable it spy on or disable Britain's communications network.

Last month a government-led committee set up to vet Huawei's products said it had found “significant technological issues” with its engineering processes leading to new risks to the UK network.

The decision is likely to lead to fresh strains with the US, which has banned the Huawei from its government networks and urged others in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance - the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada - to do the same.

This was taken up by Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat who tweeted: “Allowing Huawei into the UK's 5G infrastructure would cause allies to doubt our ability to keep data secure and erode the trust essential to £FiveEyes cooperation.

“There's a reason others have said no.”

Huawei has denied having ties to the Chinese government, but critics question how independent any large Chinese company can be, with a legal obligation on firms to co-operate with the state's intelligence agencies.

A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokeswoman said the security and resilience of the UK's telecoms networks was of “paramount importance”.

“As part of our plans to provide world class digital connectivity, including 5G, we have conducted a review of the supply chain to ensure a diverse and secure supply base, now and into the future,” the spokeswoman said.

“This is a thorough review into a complex area and will report with its conclusions in due course.”

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