There have been 11 exchanges between Baroness Morgan of Cotes and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
|Mon 29th June 2020||Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill (Lords Chamber)||2 interactions (1,165 words)|
|Tue 19th May 2020||Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (1,522 words)|
|Thu 30th April 2020||Charitable and Voluntary Sector (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (375 words)|
|Thu 6th February 2020||Cairncross Review (Lords Chamber)||2 interactions (1,923 words)|
|Tue 28th January 2020||UK Telecommunications (Lords Chamber)||28 interactions (4,126 words)|
|Mon 27th January 2020||Huawei: UK’s 5G Network (Lords Chamber)||13 interactions (1,110 words)|
|Thu 23rd January 2020||Digital Inclusion (Lords Chamber)||12 interactions (638 words)|
|Thu 23rd January 2020||Sport and Recreational Facilities (Lords Chamber)||12 interactions (595 words)|
|Thu 23rd January 2020||TV Licence Fee Enforcement (Lords Chamber)||10 interactions (552 words)|
|Thu 13th December 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (55 words)|
|Tue 20th February 2018||UK Basketball (Westminster Hall)||3 interactions (72 words)|
My Lords, I am conscious that we have had nearly an hour’s debate already on this and have a large number of noble Lords who wish to speak to this amendment. I appreciate that one of the difficulties of our current arrangements is that noble Lords might feel they have to make speeches of considerable length to pre-empt what my noble friend the Minister might say. The Companion allows a Minister to speak early if it might assist the House so, with the leave of the House, I suggest that she makes her speech at this point, to cover points that noble Lords might be anticipating.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and I am extremely happy to be able to support Amendments 9 and 14, standing in the name of my good friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, and so ably moved by her this afternoon.
In tackling risks posed by high-risk vendors, she opens an extraordinarily important debate. Amendment 9 imposes a deadline on operators, and Amendment 14 puts in place a mechanism to ensure their removal should it be shown that they pose a national security concern. To pick up on a point the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, just made, I am delighted that the clerks have ruled the amendments to be within scope, and I hope that it will be possible, as I shall suggest in my later remarks, for us to build on them further on Report. However, in addition to supporting the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, I too am grateful to the Government for facilitating Second Reading speeches this afternoon.
These proceedings take me back to 1981, when in the House of Commons I served on the Standing Committee which considered the British Telecommunications Act 1981. It was a steep learning curve for me. Plessey was based in my Liverpool constituency, and it was inspiring to see British technology and companies at the very cutting edge. It is lamentable to see how far we have fallen back in manufacturing capacity. If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is surely that we must become more resilient and less dependent in our supply chains, especially when so many authoritarian countries mock our liberal values. Even worse, it cannot be in the United Kingdom’s interests to have become so dependent on authoritarian regimes for the manufacture of technology which can be utilised by them for anti-democratic purposes, to undermine free societies, human rights and the rule of law.
That is why I hope to build on these two admirable amendments when we come to Report. I am grateful to have received through correspondence over the weekend the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, and the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Adonis.
We should all do more to ensure that high-risk vendors credibly accused of egregious abuses of human rights, such as complicity in the modern slavery of Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, will be excluded from being beneficiaries of the provisions of this legislation. In this context, I should mention that I am a vice-chairman of the APPG on Uighurs and human rights in Xinjiang and that, on 15 occasions since 2018, I have raised in your Lordships’ House the plight of the Uighurs: their incarceration, forced re-education and use as slave labour in various ways.
In January, in relation to Huawei and 5G, I asked the Government
“what assessment they have made in relation to their decision to award contracts to Huawei and other companies of the implications of the government of China’s National Intelligence Law requiring Chinese organisations and citizens to support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work.”
I also asked the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, and the Government about
“Huawei’s compliance with the Modern Slavery Act”
“what consideration they have given to such compliance in regard to their decision to award contracts to Huawei”.
“The UK Government expressed its concerns about China’s systematic human rights violations in Xinjiang, including credible and growing reports of forced labour, during the recent UN Human Rights Council.”
That deftly dodged my question and the issue of what we are going to do about the use of slave labour in our supply chains. Profiteering on the broken backs of enslaved Uighurs is either a criminal offence under British law or it is not. Either it is a nice slogan and good public relations or we take it deadly seriously and refuse to profit from it.
Be in no doubt about what we know. As long ago as December 2018, I pointed to reports that
“suggest that up to 1 million Uighurs have been incarcerated without trial in a network of sinister re-education camps: these are bristling with barbed wire and watchtowers, with torture and brainwashing that demands renouncing god and embracing Communism.”—[Official Report, 19/12/18; col. 1804.]
The Government do not disagree with these descriptions.
On 18 March 2020, I asked the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, about the use of Uighur forced labour and what assessment the Government had made
“of reports that the government of China transferred Uighurs from detention centres to work in factories where products are produced for global brands; and what plans they have to take action against such companies under the provisions of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.”
“Recent reports indicating that Uyghurs are being used as a source of forced labour add to the growing body of evidence about the disturbing situation that Uyghurs and other minorities are facing in Xinjiang. Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires companies operating in the UK with a turnover of £36m or more to publish annual statements setting out what steps they have taken to prevent modern slavery in their organisation and supply chains. The Home Office keeps compliance under active review.”
In a Westminster Hall debate on 11 March, Nigel Adams, the Minister for Asia, said:
“We have also seen credible evidence to suggest that Uighurs are being used as a source of forced labour in Xinjiang and across China, and that if individuals refuse to participate, they and their families are threatened with extra-judicial detention.”
He went on to say:
“Our intelligence is that families are also obliged to host Chinese officials in their homes for extended periods, to demonstrate their loyalty to the Communist party. On the streets, Uighurs and other minorities are continuously watched by police, supported by extensive use of facial recognition technology and restrictions on movement.”—[Official Report, Commons, 11/3/20; cols. 149-50WH.]
That was the Government, but in a report entitled Uyghurs for sale, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute outlined how Uighurs and other ethnic Muslim minorities are uprooted, wrenched from their villages, separated from their loved ones, and coercively transported under guard, across China, to work in factories. That report estimates that, between 2017 and 2019, around 80,000 Uighurs were transferred from detention centres in Xinjiang to factories throughout China. Far from their homes, devoid of family contact, incarcerated in segregated dormitories and subjected to propaganda and systematic attempts to destroy their culture, religion and identity, the labourers are kept under 24-hour surveillance. The report examines the direct and indirect supply chains of 83 leading global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, such as Apple, BMW, Huawei, Nike and others.
Are these companies directly complicit? One of the Australian institute’s researchers, Vicky Xu, says that the idea that Huawei is not working directly with local governments in Xinjiang is “just straight-up nonsense”. The 2018 announcement of one Huawei public security project in Xinjiang—as posted on a Chinese government website in Urumqi—quoted a Huawei director as saying:
“Together with the Public Security Bureau, Huawei will unlock a new era of smart policing and help build a safer, smarter society.”
This is not speculation, or evidence extrapolated from big data. This is straight from the horse’s mouth. We all know that safer, smarter policing is a euphemism that would make George Orwell roll in his grave. Huawei is making huge profits from Xinjiang’s unique techno-totalitarianism.
In December, our Government were alerted to the Australian report in a joint letter from parliamentarians from across both Houses, but again they sidestepped the issue. Their reply to us ignored the need for the Government to conduct the same human rights due diligence that they now demand of corporations. Where is that due diligence in the Bill? The more dependent we become on firms whose ties with the Chinese state extend as far as the construction of Xinjiang’s surveillance technology, the harder it will become to take a credible stance. The deeper our dependency becomes, the harder it is to stand up for our values. Huawei’s activities in Xinjiang should alert us to its true allegiances and values: its willingness to create mass surveillance technology and its devotion to, and dependency on, the Chinese Communist Party.
The most striking thing in the Government’s Statement to Parliament in January was the repeated admission of the risks involved, but where is that reflected in the Bill? And why take risks when alternatives are available? In January, like the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, I asked the Government to consider whether, in former times, the United Kingdom would have been willing to put its technology into the hands of the Kremlin, knowing what crimes were being committed in the gulags of Siberia, as in The Gulag Archipelago. The human rights-focused Helsinki process helped to bring an end to the Cold War and liberated the people suffering under the yoke of communist ideology. Today we need Helsinki with Chinese characteristics. We do not need to betray our values.
To mark Holocaust Memorial Day this year, I read Corrie ten Boom’s memoir, The Hiding Place. After sheltering Jews from the Nazi regime, Ms ten Boom was sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp. She describes her experience of doing forced labour for Siemens in the camps where her sister and many others died. The Holocaust saw state-sponsored mass enslavement on an appalling scale. Ironically, on the morning following Holocaust Memorial Day, the United Kingdom National Security Council committed to sign over up to 35% of our 5G infrastructure to Huawei, a company that the Government know actively partners with the Xinjiang Government to make the world’s most dystopian system of governance possible. Is what happened at Ravensbrück, or in The Gulag Archipelago, so very different from the plight of these 1 million Uighur Muslims, incarcerated and forced to work for nothing? It is surely our duty to ensure that legislation such as this does not further entrench what academics have described as the world’s worst incident of state-sanctioned slavery.
The United Kingdom Government have, admirably, expressed their ambition to lead the world in their anti-slavery commitment. When we come to Report, I hope that the Government will put flesh on the bones of that commitment and ensure that no deals are made with any company for which there are credible reports of slave labour. For now, I support the amendment standing in the noble Baroness’s name.
My Lords, we have heard some passionate speeches today, but, truth be told, this infrastructure Bill is about much more mundane matters. It is all about rights for operators getting access to install fibre broadband in order to achieve faster broadband rollout, not vendors or their equipment, or indeed high-risk vendors or their equipment, so we on these Benches do not believe that this is the appropriate time or place to discuss these amendments. Quite apart from that, the amendment deals with 5G infrastructure content and leads to our strong view that this debate is not appropriate now but will be when the telecom security Bill comes forward.
I do not say this very often, but I agree with the Government’s view on this, as expressed by the letter of the noble Baroness, Lady Barran. That will be the right peg for the noble Baroness’s amendments, and we should debate the substance then. For that reason, I am not going to engage with the substance of many of the statements made by the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, in moving these amendments or indeed those of the noble Lord, Lord Alton.
The background is that, despite earlier speculation, as the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, said, after some considerable consideration the Government made their Statement in January 2020 and said that Huawei would continue to play a limited role in delivering the 5G rollout. As she said, that decision took into account analysis and insight from several security bodies and experts in the UK, including GCHQ and the National Cyber Security Centre, and she explained the reasoning very clearly.
On these amendments specifically, there is of course a problem in the operators being given the right to install equipment from high-risk vendors now but ahead of a deadline set in future. Will that fibre have to be removed? What level of use by a telecoms operator and Huawei is sufficient—that its network supports connections from Huawei phones, or that it uses Huawei equipment in its 5G network but not in its fibre installation? What about a company that installs fibre under this legislation but then sells the infrastructure to another company? Why should operators be forced to develop plans to remove high-risk vendors on the advice of the NCSC when that advice is that the risk can be accepted up to a 35% network cap? Do companies now have to submit plans to reach 0% but without any expectation of that actually being implemented?
All this adds up to enormous uncertainty just at the point when we need the maximum rollout of fibre and 5G. That is why the Government are right in their approach—as I said, I do not say that very often—when they say that the issue of wayleads in the Bill should be kept separate from security considerations that will be covered by the telecoms security Bill.
For the information of the House, I do not underestimate the substantive arguments. I considered these matters very carefully myself some 10 years ago. I was a member of Huawei’s international advisory board, but I think that gives me a useful insight into these matters rather than any conflict in the current circumstances. I hope we can debate all these issues at a future date, but not in this Bill.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for allowing us to engage in this important conversation together to seek answers. I declare my known interest as chancellor of Regent’s University London, which is a UK registered charity.
In the next academic year, all UK universities expect a major reduction in fee income from international students, both EU and non-EU. For Regent’s University in particular, as a registered charity, where 80% of our student population is international and comes from 140 different countries, this will obviously have a massive impact on our finances. It is a major blow to our positioning as an educational flag-carrier for Britain’s place in the world.
For the sector as a whole, even a 50% fall in international fee income, combined with the degree of deferral for home students, will result in the loss of over £3.1 billion of income in the next year. Some UK universities, as the Office for Students will know, have high levels of external borrowing and low levels of cash reserves. Regent’s is fairly typical in having about five to six months of liquidity. We know that all universities will be affected by the drop-off of international students, but those universities that have charitable status do not have the opportunity to act as commercial or public universities may do, with the same breadth. I have written to Ministers in the Department for Education on these matters and have not had the courtesy of a reply. Could the Minister inquire of Ministers in the department whether they might respond?
Universities may be able to take account of some of the Government’s coronavirus job retention schemes. However, the money that may be required to hold universities together, particularly international support universities, will be substantial and some kind of support programme for the next six months will be essential to preserve our vital university education sector.
My Lords, on 27 March the Welsh Government announced an initial fund of £24 million to support Wales’s voluntary sector in response to the pandemic. The fund will support three distinct areas of activity: helping charities and third sector organisations financially through the crisis by providing direct financial support; helping more people volunteer; and helping volunteering services by supporting third sector organisations as well as strengthening essential third sector infrastructure, including the Volunteering Wales platform.
The primary issue for charities, however, is survival. After 10 years of austerity, they had already been cut to the very bone before this situation hit. Sickness levels of staff in charities have gone up, while organisations have seen an increased need for services, and calls for mediation and safeguarding are rising exponentially. Charities are also having to spend vast sums on PPE and sanitation products.
The charity Llamau works with young homeless people in Wales, and its chief executive, Frances Beecher, recently told me that her staff, who are working with vulnerable and already traumatised young homeless people struggling with lockdown, need all the expertise, resources and help to support them. The other big issue she raised was the lack of fundraising opportunities to bridge the gap between the income that charities receive and the cost of delivering services. It has been decimated: Llamau will lose over £600,000 this year.
Charities started as people were falling through the net of statutory support. The safety nets are now mainly with charities; it is where the knowledge and expertise are left. Many charities, especially regional and service delivery ones, will go to the wall. The fight to end youth homelessness or to combat domestic abuse will be stalled; the human cost will be huge. However, the financial costs will also be huge for statutory services, the criminal justice system and, indeed, mental health services. More support must be leveraged into the charity sector to prevent it being decimated. The Welsh Government have implemented measures, but they too need more funding. Can the Minister ensure that the UK Government also support charities and the voluntary sector with extra funding during these extraordinary times in which we live?
My Lords, as we have heard, a fully functioning local media, is a valuable community resource. It is often a lifeline for many, keeping people informed on local matters and informing communities on how local, regional and national issues may affect their lives—even if it is a stolen pint of milk. With the rapid rise in social media, many people are beginning to rely solely on social media outlets as their main source of information. The noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, focused on innovation. She is correct, but I do not see it as an either/or.
As Tom Watson outlined in a debate on this subject in the other place:
“We have lost 6,000 frontline reporter jobs since 2007; newspaper circulation rates have fallen by half; 350 local news titles have closed; and half of Britons are now worried about fake news.”—[Official Report, Commons, 12/2/19; col. 776.]
We need to ensure that local journalism is kept alive and, where possible, that local and regional media outlets have a sustainable future. We on these Benches therefore welcome the recommendations made in the Cairncross Review: to establish an institute for public interest news as well as direct funding for local public interest news. I will not repeat them but, to impress this on the Minister, I echo the questions asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, on this issue.
Another part of the Government’s response to the Cairncross Review was a plan of
“continuing to ensure a free and independent press in the UK and internationally”.
Is the Government’s recent decision to exclude certain journalists from No. 10 briefings really in this spirit, especially as that decision has been seen as undermining press freedoms? We need to ensure that local journalism is, where possible, protected and promoted. As I outlined beforehand, local media outlets are a vital community resource and I hope the Government will always have this issue at the forefront of their thinking as they follow through on the recommendations made in the Cairncross Review.
Before I sit down, I notice that the Minister is about to give her maiden speech to your Lordships’ House. Like all other noble Lords, I welcome her to this House and look forward to her contributions and interventions. I just hope that she has fewer hashtag-gate moments than she had in the other place—be that #handbaggate or #leathertrousersgate. I was tempted to wear my leather trousers to the debate today, but I was even more worried about the ire of our fantastic doorkeepers than what may come from the noble Baroness. I welcome her to this House.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Statement and for the reassurance given in large measure by what she read to us. Of course, a number of questions are left open and will emerge. Given the time that was available to me to read the various pieces of literature, my questions will be bundled out and no doubt brought into more coherent shape as time passes.
I note that we are promised “world-leading” primary legislation but are not given an exact time. Yesterday, the word was mañana. Today, in answer to the question of when, the reply is, “at the earliest opportunity.” I am becoming accustomed to the various euphemisms for mañana that are put forward in government reports. It will be a new, comprehensive telecoms security regime. I suppose that the various measures that will be necessary to make sure that we oversee activity in this area will be set out in detail. It would be reassuring to have “at the earliest opportunity” unpacked, if that is at all possible, because we are in an area where developments happen so quickly that the more time that lapses, the more behind the action and the curve we become.
I note that, as the UK’s 4G network relies on Huawei, achieving zero presence today would be near impossible, so I suppose that a reduction to 35% is welcome. But will this reduce over time to wean operators off the Chinese provider, or will 35% be an enduring figure?
The NCSC’s security analysis, which again I read very quickly, concludes that
“threat analysis highlights that our telecoms sector is potentially vulnerable to a range of cyber risks. This analysis is backed up by evidence generated from security testing of telecoms networks and by security incidents.”
In other words, the risks are high—an added pressure, perhaps, to ensure that not too much time elapses before measures are brought before us.
There is talk of the diversification of vendors and the categories under which they might be grouped, but there is not much reference to help us to understand how much home-produced material or producers will come forward. There are a number of players on the global scene. Is the activity lively in our economy and will it produce its own home-produced involvements in the provision of these measures?
Under the objective factors that help us to identify high-risk vendors, the claim is that we know more about Huawei and the risks it poses than any other country, so, whatever investigations have taken place, it puts us in prime position—according to the claims made here—to know the mind of Huawei, its activities and all the rest of it. That leads me to ask: if that is the case, how do we measure Huawei’s performance against its domestic security laws? How did Huawei pass, given China’s law on compliance with state intelligence services and co-operation with the police in the mass detention of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, for example?
In other words, Huawei gets in at 35%. We welcome that, but suppositions and assumptions are made about Huawei that we still need to have clarified for us. A lot seems to go by on just remarks, assumptions and general statements. Attracting established vendors not present in the UK and new disruptive entrants in promoting open interoperable standards is welcome. But, given the subsidies that Huawei is said to use to get market access, how do we know whether the subsidies exist and how much they amount to, and how will new entrants compete tomorrow when they cannot today? Those are just a few of the questions that occur to me.
I should say that one or two of the quotations I have used in making my remarks are attributable to members of the noble Baroness’s own party—so these concerns are felt by all of us. So we welcome what is happening today because it does set a direction of travel—but we travel with a few questions that are still waiting to be answered.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for the Statement and begin by declaring an interest: I was a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee when the security implications of Huawei’s involvement in these matters were first identified. I should confess that my attitude is still to a large extent conditioned by what we found then.
I do not share the enthusiasm of the noble Baroness for the compromises which have been announced, in particular since I spent two days last week in the United States. Any question of us being at odds with the US, and indeed other members of the Five Eyes, is something that we should not contemplate with anything other than great concern. The United States is of course our closest ally when it comes to intelligence, and I wonder to what extent account has been taken of the very strong expressions against our involvement that have come from the White House down. It has been said that the US will not share intelligence. By its very nature, we will not know what intelligence it will choose not to share—and, for all we know, such a failure may have considerable implications for the safety and the interests of this country.
Nothing that has been said or that I have read excludes in all circumstances the possibility of the risk that Huawei might be forced by the Chinese Government to exploit its position. Indeed, as has already been said, it is under something of a legal obligation to do so. I make that assertion without qualification because I am bound to say that were we in a situation where the positions were reversed and found ourselves with the kind of opportunities that a company acting on our behalf might have in a foreign nation and the national interests of the United Kingdom were at stake, we would undoubtedly seek to bring pressure on that company. That cannot be ignored.
Undertakings are frequently given, but we all know that, on many occasions, undertakings have a very short lifetime. They can be given and they can be conveniently forgotten. Throughout the discussion I have been asking this question: would the Chinese Government admit BT to such a sensitive opportunity as the United Kingdom is about to enlarge to Huawei? I doubt very much that they would.
I will conclude by saying this. It is an entirely laudable ambition to seek to extend broadband throughout the United Kingdom, but I hope that national security is not being sacrificed to that ambition.
My Lords, the Secretary of State has made it clear that there are many risks in taking this decision about Huawei. Can she give the House some idea of what additional costs will be involved in monitoring technology and equipment manufactured and imposed on this country by a communist regime?
Yesterday I raised human rights with the Secretary of State, and I wonder what consideration has been given to the anti-slavery academics who describe what is happening in Xinjiang—where, as we have heard, probably 1 million Uighur Muslims are incarcerated and where Huawei is a key player—as the world’s worst incidence of state-sponsored slavery. What due diligence will be done on Huawei to ensure compliance with the UK’s legislation, which is world class and leading on anti-slavery and modern-day slavery issues? Can the Secretary of State say what consideration has been given to unbridled surveillance, mass imprisonment, relentless propaganda and egregious human rights violations, which are too high a price to pay for subsidised technology that endangers our security and compromises British values and a belief in human rights?
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Statement. Will she explain, as I asked yesterday, why this decision has pre-empted the strategic defence and security review? The Minister spoke very strongly, and at length, on technical points, and I have the greatest respect for GCHQ and the National Cyber Security Centre, but this is not just a technical issue. This is critical national infrastructure that touches upon defence, security and many aspects of our foreign policy and foreign relations. The appropriate place to take this decision was during the strategic defence and security review. I hope that we have not added to the market failure that the Minister mentioned by political failure. I fear that this decision has been taken in a way that does not allow all necessary parties inside government who are interested to argue their case publicly and transparently. I hope I am wrong, but the idea that we can isolate one part of this system in the network world seems extremely optimistic.
My Lords, I welcome the Statement. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell, raised the matter of the American viewpoint. Is it not the position that the Americans regard China as their enemy and number one rival in a superpower world rivalry that some of us would regard as slightly out of date? But that is its position. Here, of course, we do not have the same viewpoint. In the networked world, we are taking a rather different, more subtle position. Does that not therefore mean that, provided we are very careful in the way that the Minister described, we can take a more balanced view than the Americans? Is it not really as simple as that?
My Lords, I declare an interest as one of the rather small trade union membership of former national security advisers. I entirely agree with the Minister that there is no risk-free solution in this situation, or in any security and intelligence judgment. I welcome the fact that the National Security Council was able to take a decision in a context where very strong arguments were being put on all sides. To answer the noble Lord, Lord Reid, I am sure that all the relevant interests around Whitehall argued their cases vigorously in the NSC; that is what it is for. I am glad that the Government seem to have been able to take the very professional advice from our world-class experts on cybersecurity.
I am sure that Ministers were delighted to have the barrage of no doubt well-intentioned advice from across the Atlantic, but given that many American commentators seem to see the slightest role of Huawei in our system as an existential threat, is it not quite extraordinary that the US does not have its own 5G technology solution to offer to western allies? Perhaps one of the lessons of this, as the Minister suggested, is that there has been a market failure and that, before we get to 6G, the West ought to be much more co-ordinated in its approach so that we have an entirely reliable basis in technology to go forward. In the meantime, this seems to be the right risk-managed solution for a diversified network in the circumstances we find ourselves in.
My Lords, the Huawei cybersecurity evaluation oversight board says:
“The Oversight Board continues to be able to provide only limited assurance that the long-term security risks can be managed in the Huawei equipment currently deployed in the UK”.
It goes on to say that
“it will be difficult to appropriately risk-manage future products in the context of UK deployments, until the underlying defects in Huawei’s software engineering and cyber security processes are remediated … At present, the Oversight Board has not yet seen anything to give it confidence in Huawei’s capacity to successfully complete the elements of its transformation programme”.
Why can the Government not wait until the oversight board has seen and is content with Huawei’s transformation programme rather than going into this rather risky decision today?
My Lords, in an ideal world we would not want the Chinese to provide us with telecoms equipment, build our nuclear power stations, own all our CCTV structures, buy British Steel or invest so much in the City, but we are not in an ideal world. The Americans make a lot of complaints about risks to intelligence. I was in the intelligence world for six years. I do not believe that there will be a risk to intelligence unless they say that they will not give information. This is extraordinary, bearing in mind that they released several hundred thousand of our very sensitive signals using SIPRNet, WikiLeaks and Snowden. We have to be a bit careful about shouting the odds about intelligence.
Does the Minister not think it inconceivable that the director of GCHQ and the head of the NCSC, who know more about this issue than probably anybody else in the UK, would ever give advice that put our intelligence at risk, bearing in mind that intelligence has been their bread and butter all their lives?
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that there is real concern when dealing with a totalitarian state that thinks not in electoral cycles but in the long, long term? Can she give a total assurance that this matter will be kept under constant surveillance and review? I and many others fear that we may be going for short-term advantage and creating long-term vulnerability.
My Lords, I welcome the report, because it is evidence-based and has a comprehensive structure for reviewing and endeavouring to control. We should not underestimate the importance of the 5G network to the future of the UK in terms of the fourth industrial revolution and, as the Minister mentioned, to connectivity. Perhaps at the core—an unfortunate choice of word—of this decision is the view that you can separate Huawei’s involvement in the edge of the networks from any involvement at the core. Are we likely to get any more information at this meeting at 4.30 pm on what led to that conclusion?
My Lords, I visited Huawei in Shenzhen. There is no doubting the quality of its products, which will make it difficult for the West to compete. Can my noble friend comment on the governance that we have in the UK for Huawei, which she has touched on? Is it adequate? I am conscious that, for example, if we sell arms in the US, we have to set up special boards which involve US citizens rather than UK citizens, to ensure that there are no problems for the US. Are the governance structures in the UK for this sensitive area adequate?
My Lords, is this approach of separating access to core and non-core parts of the network now a general policy with regard to companies from other countries, wherever they are from? If so, would we apply the same principle if it were, say, a company from North Korea, Iran, Russia or any other country which applied to participate in the future?
My Lords, the issue of governance boards, rightly raised by the noble Lord without a tie, is a valid one. It was first flagged up that we had problems with Huawei, after a number of years, when it stated that it could no longer guarantee security. Huawei was told to put in place a lot of investment—£2 billion, I think. Has that investment been put in to harden up the systems and to correct those problems?
My Lords, this subject is larger than telecommunications. After 31 January we will be ready to go global—widening and working together, particularly with the Five Eyes. What the outcome might have been I do not know but the point that has been made is, what was the rush? We have not yet decided our long-term policy and we have not had our discussions on security. Supposing we had said, “We will make a decision by June or December”. Can the Minister explain what the huge disadvantage would have been in waiting until then and having aired here some of the concerns, which I somewhat share?
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating the Answer to the Urgent Question given in the other place. She will be aware, as we all are, that there has been so much speculation on this matter for so long that the prospect, even tomorrow, of having something that might be direct and to the point and show us the way forward is to be welcomed.
We have allowed the development of a situation that seems to be becoming unsustainable. We have not completed the rollout of 4G, for example, and the present Government have to improve the universal service obligation for broadband that previous Administrations have dragged their heels on, or at least not delivered on. However, at the same time, operators are already buying into 5G provision, some without knowing at all how much they can rest in the certainty that their investment will be rewarded. The head of MI5 has said that he is confident that US intelligence-sharing with the UK will not be jeopardised if Britain uses Huawei technology in future 5G mobile phone networks, and there are such phone networks that have been using Huawei technology for some time.
In the other place, the colleague of the noble Baroness, in answering the Question, hid behind the fact that we have to wait for tomorrow, and of course mañana is what we all feel obliged to wait for. We will be interested to see how the noble Baroness dresses up “tomorrow” and gives us lots of assurances.
The fact is that we need certainty that 5G is the way forward, but the United States is putting all kinds of pressures on us that have little to do with the business case. Can the noble Baroness therefore give us the assurance that tomorrow everything we hope for today will be delivered?
My Lords, this is an extraordinary Statement, not least the part that states:
“The National Security Council will meet tomorrow to discuss these issues.”
Then why make a Statement today?
Is the Minister aware that we, like everyone in this House, always put national security at the top of our agenda? However, to claim that despite the inevitable focus on Huawei this review is not about one company or even one country becomes a little difficult to swallow, given all the air traffic around about the activities of the US Government to influence our Government’s decision. I therefore want to make sure that the Government are sticking by the advice they are getting from their security services and their own best-informed sources? We must recognise that we have to decide whether this is a decision about “America First” or about our own best interests. This is supposed to be the golden age of co-operation between the UK and China across a wide range of issues. We have to be able to make security decisions in our way and in our national interest while protecting those wider interests.
My Lords, I know the final decision is due to come tomorrow but my noble friend’s Statement speaks about diversity, as indeed did the telecoms review in the summer. Can she reassure us that diversity really can be maintained and dependence on a vendor, particularly a high-risk vendor, avoided? If an integrated system can be assured technically, there seems to be not much of a problem to worry about and some of the American threats seem rather empty, particularly because, while we need a trade deal eventually, getting one is not of high urgency because we already have vast trade with the US under the present system.
My Lords, notwithstanding the anxiety of our US allies, will the Minister say something about the anxieties expressed in your Lordships’ House on two occasions last week about human rights concerns and the surveillance technology that has been developed by Huawei in places such as Xinjiang, where over 1 million Uighur Muslims have been incarcerated? Will she cast her mind back to ask this question: would we in former times have made this kind of deal and opened up our technology, our security and the possibility of human rights abuses to the Soviet Union if we had known then what we knew later about what it was doing in places such as the Gulag Archipelago?
My Lords, I will differ from other noble Lords and say to the Minister that there is no reason why this decision should be taken tomorrow, particularly since we are on the eve of a strategic defence and security review. Does it not make more sense to discuss this issue in the context of that review, given the critical nature of our digital infrastructure for the defence and security of this country? We have waited long enough. There is no reason why we cannot wait another few months or a year to get this right, because it is absolutely critical and should be decided in context, not out of it.
My Lords, will the noble Baroness accept that while she emphasises the importance of 5G connectivity, it is the very connectivity that she talked about that will be jeopardised if we give control of our vital core services and infrastructure to a company which is controlled by the state? That is exactly what will be jeopardised. When she talks about the need for speed, will she not appreciate that we are better off waiting and getting the decision right, particularly when there are alternatives such as Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung, as well as UK-US co-operation that might deliver a more secure network in our national security interests?
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Lucas and with his permission, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper, and I welcome my noble friend to the Dispatch Box for the first time.
I thank my noble friend for that Answer. During the original digital revolution, government and agencies made a lot of effort to ensure that people were not excluded by a lack of facilities, or age, and so on. The great thing about the technological revolution is that it is moving at an ever-faster pace, but there is, therefore, a risk that people who were included are now at risk of being excluded from the digital revolution. Can my noble friend ensure that all government departments and agencies make efforts to keep included those who are at risk of being excluded?
My Lords, I add my welcome to those of others to the Secretary of State and refer the House to my interests in the register. Does she agree that inclusion is about more than getting the greatest number of people online as quickly as possible, and depends on the digital environment being designed in a way that respects the needs and rights of users, be they women in public life, vulnerable users, or children and young people? In particular, can she take the opportunity of welcoming the age-appropriate design code, published by the ICO yesterday, and tell the House when she expects to lay it before Parliament?
My Lords, I offer my words of welcome to the noble Baroness. The last time that we were in the same place, she was on the receiving end of a 25-minute sermon from me; I promise that my question will be shorter. We have heard some reassurances, but there are really two questions regarding inclusivity: spreading the availability of the service and deepening the skills required to take advantage of what is available. The noble Baroness has indeed answered the first question I would challenge her with by saying much of what was in my mind. But what about the users of universal credit—a service that I understand is entirely online? How do we measure the impact and the way that service is proceeding to be sure that people are not disadvantaged and marginalised because of the technology that they have to master?
My Lords, I too welcome the Secretary of State, who has now made more comebacks than Frank Sinatra. I hope she will be there long enough to follow the parallel to the ICO code, which was the work of this House and of the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, in particular. Will she support my paving Bill for a duty of care on online harms, which will allow Ofcom to get ahead with preparation for such legislation?
My Lords, I also welcome my noble friend to the Dispatch Box and declare my interests as set out in the register. She has rightly highlighted the digital divide. In the light of that, can I ask her to have a gentle word with the BBC, while obviously respecting its independence, to ask about its plans to switch off the red button teletext service, which is a vital source of news and information for many older and disabled people, and others who find themselves on the wrong side of that digital divide?
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport what steps she is taking to improve access to sport and recreational facilities and opportunities (1) during, and (2) outside of, school hours.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend the Secretary of State, and no one could be more delighted than I am that responsibility for sport is now in this House—sport has come home. My noble friend will be aware that more than 33% of our medallists at the Olympic Games came from the independent sector, which represents 7% of our children. Given that there is so much sporting talent to be identified and developed in the state sector, will she launch a new strategy, with her colleagues in education, to ensure that all independent schools—not just those which already demonstrate that best practice but all independent schools that are in receipt of charitable status—continue to build school sports partnerships with the state sector, local clubs and the community as part of their public benefits requirement?
My Lords, I need not issue the welcome a second time. The Olympic Games are the starting point for my question, but I refer to those that took place here in 2012. I declare my interest as chair of the board of directors of the Central Foundation Schools of London, where there is not a blade of grass for anybody to play anything on. The boys’ school is within three miles of Stratford and the Olympic Village. I cannot see how the ambitions raised in the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, can be fulfilled without rather a lot of resource being put in to get people out of these inner-city schools to somewhere they can play their games and have their exercise. Does the Minister have some ambitious and recently imagined plan that will help me go to my board and say, “There’s hope round the corner”?
My Lords, I join others in welcoming the Minister to her place. Does she share my concern that the disparity in facilities referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, extends to arts facilities? It was no less an actor than Benedict Cumberbatch who pointed out to me that this reduces opportunities not only for less affluent children but for creative innovation, where different voices come together. Does she agree with me that it should not take Sherlock to point out that there are significant benefits from opening up these facilities for wider use?
My Lords, I welcome the Minister to her new role. The Government have a situation where schools that used to provide many of the facilities for junior clubs in their start-up role are increasingly finding doors locked. What duty is being placed on those schools to get in touch with the governing bodies of these sports to let them know what facilities are potentially available, possibly upping the revenue of these schools?
Is it not the case that partnership schemes in sport between independent and state schools, of which there are over a thousand, are already making a useful contribution to the sharing of facilities and staff? At the same time, I support my noble friend Lord Moynihan’s call for the further extension of this valuable work.
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport what assessment she has made of the report by David Perry QC, TV Licence Fee Enforcement Review, published in July 2015; and what steps she has taken since that report was published.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a former governor of the BBC and welcome the noble Baroness to her new appointment. I also take the opportunity to congratulate the soon to be departing director-general on his service to the BBC. The noble Baroness is right that the Perry report was an independent review, which concluded that the licence fee was fair, proportionate and value for money. Does the noble Baroness recognise that taking people to court is in fact the very last resort in these cases and that, even when they are in court, people are given an opportunity to pay? Although it is true that it is a criminal conviction, perhaps a lot of noble Lords do not know that it is not recordable in a DBS check—so there is a difference there. I am aware of the comments that have been made, but I hope that, in any further review of the role of the BBC and the way that the licence fee is applied, we will recognise the importance of the organisation and the services that it provides. They are still very good value for money.
My Lords, but what are the Government doing to ensure the continuation of free TV licences for all people over 75?
My Lords, I too welcome the Secretary of State. Will she confirm that the terms of the currently BBC charter specifically rule out any change to the BBC’s mission or public purposes during the whole of its lifetime? What assurances can the Secretary of State give that no steps will be taken, including the decriminalisation of licence fee offences, which would cost £200 million a year to the BBC, that would threaten or undermine the BBC’s ability to fulfil all its charter requirements?
My Lords, I think it is fair to say that the issues that have just been raised are not the direct responsibility of the new Secretary of State, whom I welcome to her place, but she certainly has to inherit responsibility for them. The Government putting in their manifesto that they would find the funds for over-75s and then withdrawing that is certainly something that the party opposite will not escape with for very long.
Having said that, I will ask a rather narrow question, although it relates to the same issue. More by luck than good judgment, we have got out of the situation where the licence fee and the royal charter are renewed at the same time as general elections. That is to be welcomed. That having been said, we have a mid-term review, which I think is now scheduled for 2022. We have not yet seen the terms of reference for the review, so I would be grateful to know whether they will be published. I would also be grateful if the noble Baroness could repeat what was said yesterday in an answer during Oral Questions: that the mid-term review will remain, as was agreed during legislative discussions on the royal charter last time round, a light-touch review that will not deal with substantial issues to do with licensing, the licence fee or, indeed, the charter itself.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that important matter. It is vital that anyone engaging in such transactions does so in full possession of the information they need and understands the consequences of their decisions. No one should be taken advantage of in this way. She will understand that this is a matter predominantly for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which has policy responsibility in this area, but I will certainly discuss it with colleagues there. We will see what more we can do.
That sounds a lot more fun. I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend and congratulate all those involved in the event that she mentions. As she suggests, the importance of what we are doing on tourism, and I hope that this will be reflected in the sector deal, is that tourism can be a hugely successful career—not just a summer job or short-term employment, but a career, and a satisfying one at that. It is important that we make that position clear to all those who seek to enter the workforce, so that we have a high-quality workforce offering a superb tourism product to a large number of people around the world.
It is a pleasure to take part in this debate, not least because the national cup champions, Hemel Storm, are in my constituency. I want to talk about two points. I agree completely, looking at aspiration, that there has to be an opportunity for our young boys and girls to start at school, come through the clubs and go on to play for England. If the funding is just about winning at the top all the time, there will never be that transition. While I absolutely agree with the policy of Sport England on elitism, money has to be put to one side to bring the different places through.
I slightly disagree with the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel): it is not all about young people. The average crowd at Hemel Storm—I see here some of the referees that have come to me—is 700. That club started seven years ago. We had a club many years ago; the franchise was bought out, and it went to Milton Keynes. When we restarted the club—I say “we”, because it is completely a community project—we made sure it was set up as a trust, so that it could never be sold off again.
From that moment on, the community came in. We have great-great-grandparents in the audience on a regular basis, and toddlers who cannot even walk. They are mostly not there because of the players. Of course, the families and loved ones of the players are there, but we could not get those sorts of numbers from only families and loved ones, in a town that has baseball, professional rugby league and three football clubs—I could go on. There is an elite gym where Max Whitlock and Jess Stretton, who won Olympic golds, came from. The crowd is there because it is a community thing. It is us coming together.
When we went to east London, to the Docklands, for the final against Manchester Magic, they never realised what happened to them, because we had 500-plus of our people in the crowd and I think Manchester Magic had about half a dozen, or perhaps fewer than that. I am not saying that that is why Manchester Magic lost; they lost because they were not as good as Hemel Storm—it is as simple as that.
The issues I have heard are not new to me. I have players playing for England at junior level. In the past, I have had families come to me and ask, “Can we help fundraise?”, to help these young players come through. Like many colleagues, I have had correspondence from young people with aspirations who want to get up there. They have been selected for the England junior team. Marina Christie and Jack Burnell are both coming through and should be playing for England soon. They have had problems, but the families are brilliant and support them. While I fully support saying that we need to get more help from central funding, if we are really honest with ourselves, basketball needs to come together better across the board, so that we have the structures we need, right from the bottom to the top.
I completely agree on the latter point: sport is aspirational. It is one of the great ways forward for people like me, born and bred in north London. I got into the armed forces because I could play rugby pretty well. It was pretty obvious that I would not have got in on my academic abilities, but I boxed and I played rugby pretty well. I did try to play basketball, but it was the wrong shaped ball for me, and they were all up here somewhere, even though I was in the Guards.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan) has touched on a very important point. Look at the people in the crowd watching: they are young and old, and from across our community. I am not going to pick on any particular area; at the end of the day, we come together as a community. Interestingly, Hemel Storm have only one overseas player. That is quite remarkable given the progression that we have made, but we simply did not have the money at the time to bring in players from Spain and America; we have one American player now.
We looked at how this could be funded, and we need to look at that all the way through. Look at the sponsorship of Hemel Storm: Epson, an international company; Vanarama, one of the largest leasing companies in the country and sponsors of the Vanarama football league; McDonald’s, interestingly enough, which is genuinely trying to show what it does with its healthy food; and Arriva, which has donated us a bus completely plastered with “Hemel Storm”, which we use when we are away.
Interestingly and importantly, Mr Bailey, when I was at the cup final, I saw absolutely no advertising. There was no marketing and no sponsorship. To me, that is the missing link. We can ask the lottery and Sport England for more money, but we also have to come together in the basketball community to get the sponsorship that we need.