British MPs have voted against an amendment that sought to prohibit the use of Huawei in the UK’s 5G mobile network.
It is the first backbench rebellion for prime minister Boris Johnson since he won an 80 seat majority in December’s general election, with a number of senior Conservatives backing the amendment.
In January the government gave Huawei the green light for telecoms firms to use Huawei technology in “non-core” parts of the country’s 5G networks. It followed long delays and intense lobbying from the US, which alleges the technology firm’s close ties to the Chinese state makes it a security threat.
Huawei has consistently denied any wrongdoing, while the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre said that it could manage any risk.
Huawei’s technology is generally considered to be superior and cheaper than alternative vendors.
The amendment, put forward by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, sought to prohibit the use of vendors defined by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre as “high-risk”.
Huawei technology is already used in the UK’s limited 5G network and has been used for more than a decade in 4G and 3G.
A number of high-profile Conservatives are against the use of Huawei technology in any of the UK’s mobile infrastructure.
Chair of the Commons Defence Select Committee Tobias Ellwood previously told Verdict that the Five Eyes intelligence allies should come together to develop an alternative to Huawei.
For the first time in this Parliament I have voted against the Government in support of an amendment to the Telecommunications Bill to keep high-risk Chinese company Huawei out of the 5G contract. We lost by just 24 votes. We should not be taking these risks with our security
— Tim Loughton MP (@timloughton) March 10, 2020
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Former trade secretary Liam Fox said that the “idea we must have Huawei because there are no other alternatives is also untrue”.
“The United States is going to get 5G without Huawei because they will not bring that risk into their own national security, so what is wrong with the United Kingdom having to wait a little longer to get 5G?”
The government’s defeat of the amendment by 24 votes means that the bill can now proceed to a third reading. Last week the government announced the launch of a new inquiry to investigate the security of its 5G infrastructure, with a particular focus on Huawei.