Boris Johnson’s new communications director, Guto Harri, lobbied a former chief of staff in Number 10 not to ban Chinese technology giant Huawei in the UK, leaked documents suggest.
Mr Harri, hired by the Prime Minister as part of his shake-up in Downing Street following the parties scandal, asked Sir Eddie Lister which ministers could receive a “nudge” for his client in 2020, the Sun reported.
ITV News Political Editor described the report as "very serious" for the PM. It comes on the same day Mr Harri made headlines after his new boss reportedly sang 'I Will Survive' to him.
What does the leaked document suggest?
The communications chief was said to have been representing lobbying firm Hawthorn Advisors during the 25-minute video call including Huawei executives on June 2 that year.
The following month, telecoms firms were ordered to strip Huawei equipment from 5G networks by 2027 over security fears.
Minutes suggested Sir Eddie said Mr Johnson did not want to ban the firm, but was “caught” between two places.
“We want the technology, we want it rolled out. There’s an American concern and a parliamentary concern,” he reportedly said.
“There are a large number of MPs across the political divide who have a problem with China. Some are Atlanticists, some over Covid, some over Hong Kong, some over human rights.”
'Any ministers we should talk to? Perhaps give a nudge?'
Mr Harri asked if there were “any ministers we should talk to? Perhaps give a nudge in DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) or Treasury?”, the minutes suggested.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman defended Mr Harri’s appointment on Monday, saying: “He provided advice to the clients of a private company.
“That’s entirely legitimate, it’s in the public domain and obviously we would not exclude from government someone with valuable experience and expertise.”
After the Sun reported the leaked minutes, a No 10 spokeswoman said: “In full compliance with appropriate guidance, government officials met with a number of interested parties, including Huawei, following the change in US policy.
“After a technical review by the National Cyber Security Centre in response to the US sanctions, the government then banned the purchase of any new 5G Huawei equipment and is in the process of removing all Huawei equipment from 5G networks.
“The Prime Minister always acts in the best interests of the UK when dealing with China which allows us to manage disagreements, defend our values and preserve space to tackle challenges including on security.”