Huawei ban from UK networks to be cemented as new Bill laid before MPs

Telecoms Bill to cement Huawei ban from UK networks goes before Parliament Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

A Bill that would give the government greater powers to shut out high-risk vendors from the UK’s telecoms infrastructure will be laid before Parliament on Tuesday.

The Telecommunications (Security) Bill would create national security powers capable of imposing controls on when – if at all – a telecoms firm could use material supplied by companies such as Huawei.

In the summer, the government announced that the Chinese firm was to be banned from the most sensitive core parts of UK networks.

It also plans to rip out all Huawei equipment from 5G networks by 2027 – decisions that would be enshrined in law by the new Bill.

Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming has warned of ‘consequences’ if Huawei is excluded. Credit: Yui Mok/PA

Under the proposals, security protocols around UK networks will also be strengthened with fines, of 10% of turnover or £100,000 a day, for those who do not meet the new standards.

Communications regulator Ofcom is to be tasked with the monitoring and assessing of security protocols among telecoms providers.

“We are investing billions to roll-out 5G and gigabit broadband across the country but the benefits can only be realised if we have full confidence in the security and resilience of our networks,” Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said.

“This groundbreaking Bill will give the UK one of the toughest telecoms security regimes in the world and allow us to take the action necessary to protect our networks.”

Huawei's technology will not be used in the UK's 5G network. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said that current-self governance laws in place did not work.

They said that telecoms providers were currently responsible for setting their own security standards but the Government’s Telecoms Supply Chain Review found they often had little incentive to adopt the best security practices.

It said the new duties set out in the Bill would set minimum security standards for firms to reach, while new codes of practice will be introduced to help providers comply with their legal obligations around high-risk vendors.

Dr Ian Levy, technical director at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), said: “The rollout of 5G and gigabit broadband presents great opportunities for the UK but as we benefit from these we need to improve security in our national networks and operators need to know what is expected of them.

“We are committed to driving up standards and this bill imposes new telecoms security requirements which will help operators make better risk management decisions.”

Huawei's Vice President, Victor Zhang, said: "It’s disappointing that the Government is looking to exclude Huawei from the 5G rollout.

"This decision is politically motivated and not based on a fair evaluation of the risks. It does not serve anyone’s best interests as it would move Britain into the digital slow lane and put at risk the Government’s levelling up agenda."