Government may not be able to 'rely' on Huawei for 5G due to US sanctions, minister admits

Danielle Sheridan
Cabinet Ministers Oliver Dowden and Ben Wallace gave evidence to Defence Select Committee on Huawei 

The UK Government may not be able to "rely" on Huawei for 5G due to US sanctions, a minister has admitted. 

Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, conceded that there was a “further specific issue with Huawei” when it came to America. 

“Given that the US government has imposed sanctions on Huawei, given that those are focused on 5G, we do need to fully understand those and how much that impacts on how much we can rely on Huawei equipment in the system, given that it is subject to restraints from sanctions,” he told Tuesday's Defence Sub Committee.  

When asked by Tobias Ellwood, the committee's chairman, if the “Americans are having an impact on your decision making?” Mr Dowden said it was “a fact that Americans have imposed these sanctions”. 

“It is a fact that those sanctions are targeted at 5G and it is a fact that given it has targeted US patents upon which Huawei relies that will in turn have an impact on the reliability of Huawei,” he added. 

Mr Ellwood said that based on the cabinet minister’s comments he “expects there will be a significant change of policy regarding Huawei in the near future”. 

It comes after a review by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) was launched to assess Huawei's involvement in Britain's 5G network in the wake of the sanctions. 

Mr Dowden said: “What we have asked the NCSC to do in terms of its analysis is to understand the impact of the viability of Huawei products given the sanctions. Clearly that necessitates any change in policy, that would be agreed with the Prime Minister and then then NCSC council.”

He later added: “Given there is the fact of these sanctions on Huawei, that is a very relevant fact in terms of reliability of their equipment, which is why we’ve asked the NCSC to provide that analysis to see what the policy consequences are of that.”

Huawei in UK

Ben Wallace, Defence Secretary, told the committee that he was not “happy” that there were high risk vendors within the UK’s critical infrastructure and that the Government’s ambition was to remove such vendors from the network.

“We had all hoped that China would emerge through trade, through capitalism, into a modern democracy,” he said. 

Mr Wallace added that the “timeline” would be set by two things, which include the “United States latest round of sanctions” and “in the here and now we can take that step of ban from the core, cap it on the outer core and work towards cutting it out of its system at a date that fits the technical advice”. 

Bob Seely, co-ordinator of the 60 strong Tory MPs Huawei Interest Group, said: “It’s clear the Government seems to be significantly reconsidering Huawei’s involvement in the future 5G network, because it’s being pressed from two angles; first the US government and secondly, it’s likely parliament here won’t accept Huawei’s includement in the telecoms security bill, which is awaiting its second reading.”