Oliver Dowden has said any change to Huawei’s role in developing the UK’s 5G mobile network will be announced within weeks, as he suggested an intelligence report found US sanctions have had a “significant impact” on the company’s reliability.
The culture secretary’s remarks come amid reports Boris Johnson is drawing up plans to strip the Chinese telecommunications giant’s access to the mobile network in a major shift in government policy.
The prime minister gave the green light to Huawei earlier this year – despite an explosive diplomatic row with Donald Trump’s administration – but there has been growing unease in Conservative ranks over the company’s access to the 5G network.
Speaking on Monday, Mr Dowden confirmed he had received a report from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on Huawei’s suitability in the wake of severe sanctions on the firm from the US.
According to The Sunday Times, the report will claim the sanctions will force the company to use technology that is “untrusted”.
Quizzed on the issue on LBC radio, the cabinet minister went on: “In relation to Huawei, we’ve had these US sanctions that were imposed a couple of months ago. I’ve asked the National Cyber Security Centre to analyse the impact of them.
“It seems likely they’re going to have a significant impact on the reliability of Huawei, I’ve just received that advice, I will be discussing that with the prime minister and if there’s any change of policy arising from it I will make an announcement.”
He added: “I would certainly aim to do that before Parliament rises for the summer recess, so later this month.”
In a separate interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Dowden said: “Yes, I have (received the National Cyber Security Centre report) and with my officials we’re now examining it and understanding the implications of it.”
“The point of commissioning this advice from the NCSC is to understand the implications of the US sanctions. Clearly the US sanctions will present challenges and that is what that advice is about.”
In an article, the former head of MI6, Sir John Sawers said the UK had “found a reasonable balance in limiting” the company’s role in the 5G network when the prime minister gave the company go ahead in January.
But writing in the Financial Times added: “The Trump administration’s motives for trying to destroy Huawei can be debated. But the latest US sanctions, at the end of June and last week, mean that reliable non-Chinese suppliers to Huawei can no longer work with the company.
"UK intelligence services can therefore no longer provide the needed assurances that Chinese-made equipment is still safe to use in the UK’s telecoms network."