Theresa May under pressure to launch leak inquiry after Huawei 5G decision revealed

Posted On: 
25th April 2019

Theresa May is facing growing calls to order a leak inquiry after secret discussions by Cabinet ministers about Chinese telecoms giant Huawei's role in Britain's 5G network were made public.

It emerged this week that the Government is poised to allow Huawei to provide "non-core" technology for the upcoming 5G mobile network.
Credit: 
PA

Labour said the National Security Council (NSC) - which is made up of senior ministers and spy chiefs - had been used as "political ammunition in a Tory Party civil war", while security officials also demanded a probe into how the top-secret talks found their way into the media.

It emerged this week that the Government is poised to allow Huawei to provide "non-core" technology for the upcoming mobile network - despite a raft of security concerns among the UK's allies about the firm.

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Several Cabinet ministers, including Conservative leadership hopefuls Gavin Williamson, Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt, were said to have raised their objections at the meeting.

But Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett said the Government had "once again proved incapable of coming together to protect the public interest".

The Labour frontbencher added: "Critical issues of national security should be handled with utmost care, not used as political ammunition in a Tory Party civil war.  

"The Government should launch a full investigation to get to the bottom of these leaks, otherwise it risks further extinguishing what little authority it has left."

Former Cabinet minister Damian Green meanwhile told The Sun that the leaking of the NSC information was "irresponsible and unforgivable", adding: "Anyone who has ever had anything to do with security is furious."

The Times reported that the leak had also sparked anger among intelligence chiefs, with one source telling the paper the account of the meeting was "evidently briefed to make a leadership candidate look tough on China".

And one minister told the BBC that the NSC was "the holy of holies", with the leaks branded "simply not acceptable".

Cabinet members found to have broken the ministerial code would be forced to resign, while there is even speculation that the leaker could have broken the Official Secrets Act, opening up the possibility of a criminal investigation.

'SLEEPING DRAGON'

The calls for an inquiry - which would be led by Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill - came as Mrs May faced growing anger over the Huawei decision itself.

The US has all-but banned the telecoms firm from its own infrastructure amid concerns it is linked to the Chinese state - and Rob Joyce, a senior adviser at the US National Security Agency, said the British move could hand Beijing a “loaded gun”.

He told the Financial Times: "We have got to understand all the details of that and decide what that means.

"What we will be insistent on is UK decisions can’t put our information at risk but the good news is that the UK already understands that."

Conservative MP Bob Seeley warned: "If you nest a dragon in critical infrastructure, even if it’s a sleeping dragon, you still have a risk built in."

But Jerry Wang, chief executive of Huawei UK, said objections to the firm in the US were "not based on security concerns, but a barely concealed protectionist trade agenda". The company has long denied links to the Chinese state and pointed out that its technology is already used in the 4G network.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington insisted that no decision had yet been made on Huawei's involvement, and said findings from an ongoing government review would be released "in the proper way".

The United States, New Zealand and Australia have already barred the company from supplying some elements of their own telecoms infrastructure.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson last year said he had "grave, very deep concerns about Huawei providing the 5G network in Britain".