Number 10 is standing by the prime minister’s claim that a review of the takeover of a Welsh semiconductor firm by a Chinese-owned company was prompted by the Welsh Government.
Yesterday Boris Johnson told MPs on the Liaison Committee that his national security adviser was looking into the sale of Newport Wafer Fab to a Dutch company which is owned in turn by a Chinese firm.
The Prime Minister added that the Welsh Government “rather sweetly asked us to deal with it.”
The Welsh Government immediately denied that any such request had been made and the Welsh Economy Minister Vaughan Gething repeated that denial to MPs today.
Separately, the prime minister’s official spokesman confirmed that the national security adviser has been asked to review the case and that “we’re going to monitor the situation closely and obviously wouldn't hesitate to take further action if needed.”Asked if the prime minister had misled MPs by claiming the Welsh Government requested a review, the spokesman said "no" and pointed back to the prime minister’s words.
Asked if those words were “rather sweetly asked us to deal with it”, he said “Yes.”The deal, said to be worth £63m, will see Wafer Fab taken over by a Dutch semiconductor firm, Nexperia, which is in turn owned by a Chinese technology business.
It had been welcomed by the sector and the Welsh Government for securing 400 jobs.
But last month security questions were raised by the MP Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. He raised it again with the prime minister yesterday and welcomed news of the review.
The Welsh Government says it has no quarrel with any review because powers over defence and security clearly lie with the UK Government but is standing by its denial that it called for a review. Vaughan Gething was asked about the confusion by the Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, Stephen Crabb.
Gething said that for the last year, "UK Government officials were aware that there was a potential Chinese investor here that could end up acquiring the business, so they could have undertaken the review previously.
"It's a matter for the UK Government to explain the timing of the review. It's not for me to criticise a review taking place if there are concerns that the UK Government has and they need to undertake that investigation, but it's not factually correct that the Welsh Government asked the UK Government to undertake this review."
At the same committee, the Welsh Secretary was also tackled about the issue.
On Wednesday, Simon Hart said that UK Government officials had been “satisfied” that security risks had been fully taken into account. Today, he said that his remarks had been based on assessments by the Business Enterprise and Industrial Strategy department (BEIS).
"BEIS' comments seem very clear to me, and hence my comments to ITV Wales yesterday, that an assessment has been made and... potential security issues were worked out, which BEIS was content with.
"The fact that the PM may have asked that to be confirmed or to be challenged or to be looked at, I don't think adds or subtracts from the comments that Kwasi [Kwarteng, the Business Secretary] has made.
"I think it's perfectly normal to say, Look, can we just double check that situation still stands."
He wouldn't add to the prime minister's claim that the review was prompted by the Welsh Government, referring any such questions to Number 10.