The next British prime minister must decide whether Huawei should be allowed to be part of the UK’s 5G network “as a matter of priority”, Dominic Grieve’s Intelligence and Security Committee has said.
Questions over the Chinese firm’s involvement in the 5G infrastructure have lingered for some time, amid fears its equipment could be used to spy on people in the West – an allegation the firm has long denied.
Mr Grieve, who chairs the committee, has warned that the extent of the delay is “damaging the UK’s international relationships”.
In a statement, the committee cautioned that determining whether or not a Chinese company might use its position within the network to spy on people is not the issue at stake.
The UK must not do anything that jeopardises the Five Eyes intelligence sharing relationship, it explained, saying that the US and Australia have already been vocal in their concern that the UK might employ Huawei within its 5G network.
“Our Five Eyes partners need to be able to trust the UK and we must not do anything which puts that at risk – the value of the partnership cannot be overstated,” the committee wrote.
However, it also said the issue should not be viewed as a pro or anti China debate, urging the UK to continue to deal with the country with respect, as a key economic and diplomatic partner.
The UK needs a secure 5G network that can withstand any malicious action, from within, from outside, or simple human effort, it warned.
Looking to the future, the committee suggests taking action to reduce over-reliance on Chinese technology, by creating greater diversity in the market.
“In terms of the immediate issue, restricting those companies who may be involved in our 5G network will have consequences: both in terms of time and cost,” it went on.
“And the Government must weigh these, together with the security advice that any risk posed could be managed in a secure system, against the geostrategic issues outlined.”
Mr Grieve said: “The debate over whether or not Huawei should be allowed to supply equipment to the UK 5G network has dragged on long enough and is damaging the UK’s international relationships.
“The new prime minister must take a decision as a matter of priority.”
The development follows the Science and Technology Select Committee, which recently said there are no technological grounds for banning Huawei but said some ethical concerns remain.
A Government spokeswoman said: “The security and resilience of the UK’s telecoms networks is of paramount importance. We have robust procedures in place to manage risks to national security and are committed to the highest possible security standards.
“The Telecoms Supply Chain Review will be announced in due course. We have been clear throughout the process that all network operators will need to comply with the Government’s decision.”