Tory MPs Defeated After Trying to Kick Huawei out of the UK's 5G Networks

By Shabana Arif on at

The Tory MP rebellion that saw senior party members challenge the Prime Minister's decision to carry on doing business with Huawei has been quashed.

Boris Johnson made the decision to allow the Chinese tech giant's kit to be used in the country's 5G infrastructure back in January, despite stiff opposition from the US. But it wasn't just the US that was irked with Johnson's final ruling; his fellow Torys weren't too happy either.

Last month, a number of Conservative party MPs, including Iain Duncan Smith, Owen Paterson, David Davis, Damian Green, Tobias Ellwood and Bob Seely, rose up - and by 'rose up' I mean penned and signed a letter - contesting the decision. The Chinese ambassador called it a witch-hunt, stressing that Huawei is a private company and has "nothing to do with the Chinese government."

The US is claiming that Huawei included backdoors into its equipment, giving it access to the same data as law enforcement. No comment on the potential abuses of that power by its own countrymen, I notice. Since then Huawei has had a couple of snafus over leaked documents suggesting that it violated trade sanctions and claims of forced labour along its supply chain.

The group of MPs tried to use the parliamentary amendment system to alter the Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill and force Huawei out, but that didn't pan out as they wanted, after it was defeated by 24 votes.

Culture Minister Matt Warman said the points of contention had been heard "loud and clear," saying:

"We will now engage intensively with colleagues across the House to make sure that we will make our case at every possible level…and we will underline that we will always put national security at the very top of our agenda."

282 MPs voted in favour of the amendment, while 306 MPs voted against it. After the vote, Huawei vice president Victor Zhang said:

"An evidence-based approach is needed, so we were disappointed to hear some groundless accusations asserted. The industry and experts agree that banning Huawei equipment would leave Britain less secure, less productive and less innovative."

A second reading with a "general debate on all aspects of the Bill" is next on the agenda, but hasn't been scheduled yet. [BBC News]