Boris Johnson defeats rebel Tory MPs over Huawei 5G deal

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday scored a major victory against a rebellion by MPs in the Conservative Party over the role of Chinese technology company Huawei in the development of Britain’s 5G networks.

Senior Tories sought guarantees from ministers over restrictions on Huawei’s involvement, including a timescale as to when “high risk vendors” would be removed from the system.

Rebel Tory MPs had proposed a change to the Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill, which would have required Huawei to have been eliminated from the country’s 5G networks by December 31 2022.

Parliament rejected the amendment, with the government winning the vote by 306 to 282.

Oliver Dowden said ‘there is a huge sense of urgency in this’ (AFP via Getty Images)
Earlier the UK’s digital minister Oliver Dowden said the government was not in a position to set out a specific date to strip out “high-risk” vendors, such as China’s Huawei, from its future 5G network.

“We’re not in a position today to set out a specific date or timetable for reaching no high-risk vendors, that would require a new decision to be taken by the National Security Council,” he told parliament.

He said the government would work with other “five eyes” intelligence partners to develop new supply chain capacity during the course of the parliament, which is due to end in 2024, and would allow lawmakers to air their concerns before new legislation was introduced on telecommunications security.

Mr Dowden said the Government is committed to reducing the UK’s reliance on Huawei within the current Parliament.

He told MPs: “There is a huge sense of urgency in this.

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“This is why we are committed to working with our Five Eyes partners to make sure in this Parliament – we are setting for the first time here – we are setting out a timetable to say within this Parliament we will get the capacity so that then we can ensure that we will start to move away from our reliance on high-risk vendors.

“It’s already capped at 35%, we want to get to a position where we don’t need to rely on them at all.

“This is the important first step and this is about reassuring the House that we are on the path to diversification.”

•London Evening Standard