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UK Government Says it Hasn't Decided yet on Huawei 5G Role

Huawei's mobile phones are displayed at a telecoms service shop in Hong Kong, March 29, 2019.
Huawei's mobile phones are displayed at a telecoms service shop in Hong Kong, March 29, 2019.

The British government has not yet decided whether to allow China's Huawei to supply parts for the U.K.'s new 5G wireless network, Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright said Thursday, as he condemned leaks from private government discussions on the issue.

Wright said government officials and U.K. intelligence agencies are still carrying out a review on how best to strike the "difficult balance between security and prosperity."

He told lawmakers in the House of Commons that "there has not been a final decision made on this subject."

The United States has been lobbying allies to exclude Huawei from all 5G networks, noting that the Chinese government can force the company to give it backdoor access to data on its networks.

Huawei officials have denied that the company is a security risk, saying that they have no links to the Chinese government and operate like any other international company.

Wright said it was unrealistic to try to eliminate all Chinese equipment from U.K. telecoms systems.

"Huawei is a significant player in this market; there are very few others," he said.

Wright also warned lawmakers against leaking details of meetings of the National Security Council, after the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported Wednesday that the council had approved Huawei's involvement in "non-core" parts of the 5G network.

"Officials, including the security and intelligence agencies, need to feel that they can give advice to ministers which ministers will treat seriously and keep private," Wright said. "If they do not feel that, they will not give us that advice and government will be worse as a result."

Labour Party lawmaker Jo Platt said the government should hold a thorough inquiry into the leak, which comes amid a Brexit-fueled breakdown in government discipline. With Prime Minister Theresa May weakened by her failure to take Britain out of the European Union, multiple ministers are positioning themselves to try to replace her.

Platt said suggestions that a minister leaked the information as part of Conservative leadership jockeying were "truly shocking. "

"Critical issues of national security should be handled with utmost care, not used as political ammunition in a Tory Party civil war," she said.