Jeremy Hunt urges Theresa May to show 'caution' over Huawei amid row over 5G network decision
Jeremy Hunt has urged Theresa May to show "caution" over the decision to let Chinese telecoms firm Huawei help build the UK’s 5G network.
The Foreign Secretary said the company would be obliged "to co-operate with Chinese intelligence services", as he became the first Cabinet minister to publicly express concern over the Prime Minister's move to let Huawei help construct "non core" parts of the mobile network.
Speaking ahead of a visit to Africa, Mr Hunt told the Daily Telegraph: "We are right to have a degree of caution about the role of large Chinese companies because of the degree of control the Chinese state is able to exercise over them in the way that would not be possible if they were large Western companies.
"That doesn’t mean to say that their role is automatically malign, but there are things like the 2017 law which requires all Chinese companies, whatever their ownership, to co-operate with Chinese intelligence services on any occasion.
"Obviously, as we come to our decision, we have to weigh those considerations very carefully."
A Whitehall leak inquiry is currently underway to find out how the Government's thinking on Huawei found its way into the media after a top-secret meeting of the National Security Council.
Mr Hunt - who has already denied being the source of the story - said: "I would be very happy for anyone to look at my phone, as would my trusted special adviser."
Fellow Cabinet members Gavin Williamson, Liam Fox, Penny Mordaunt and Sajid Javid have also moved to distance themselves from the leak in recent days.
Mr Hunt's comments came as defence minister Tobias Ellwood also broke ranks to urge caution on Huawei, which has been blocked from building the networks of some of Britain's allies because of security concerns.
"The debate over Huawei masks the need for a more urgent and significant conversation about China's place at the international table which must include gaining agreement on an operational framework to support future security and trade relationships," Mr Ellwood wrote in the Telegraph.
"Until these wider geopolitical issues are resolved, we should be cautious over granting Huawei direct access to our networks."
But Beijing's UK ambassador this weekend defended the company, and urged the British government to show "independent decision-making" and resist "protectionism".
"The last thing the world needs is the introduction of any sort of discriminatory measures towards companies involved in 5G network development," Liu Xiaoming wrote.
The company has denied links to the Chinese state and pointed out that its technology is already used in the 4G network.