Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is reported to have expressed ‘very deep concerns’ about Chinese firm Huawei’s role in upgrading the UK’s mobile network.
His comments came after the head of the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, had questioned why Huawei were involved with the country’s new 5G network.
Alex Younger said the US, Australia and New Zealand had already banned Huawei from supplying equipment for their 5G mobile network.
He said the UK must decide how comfortable it is with the Chinese having ownership of the technology here amid concerns about espionage.
Williamson reportedly told The Times: “I have grave, very deep concerns about Huawei providing the 5G network in Britain. It’s something we’d have to look at closely.”
He said the UK would look at the actions of Australia, New Zealand and the US, who all restricted use of Huawei technology in 5G mobile networks
“We’ve got to recognise the fact, as has been recently exposed, that the Chinese state does sometimes act in a malign way,” he added.
The UK recently accused China of using hackers to target commercial secrets.
Huawei, founded by a former People’s Liberation Army officer, denies any links to the Chinese state.
The firm rejected suggestions that it was a security threat and said it had ‘never been asked by any government to build any backdoors or interrupt any networks.’
UK communications giant BT has announced plans to remove Huawei equipment from its 3G and 4G networks.
It also says it will not be using the firm’s products for key elements of its new 5G service.
Huawei equipment is also being taken out of a new emergency services communication system, although the Government has not said why.
Earlier this month, two Chinese men were indicted in the US for hacking the networks of government agencies and private companies in the west.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said they had been involved in ‘one of the most significant and widespread cyber intrusions against the UK and allies to date.’
The Foreign Office said hackers from China’s Ministry of State Security are stealing commercial secrets from firms in Europe, Asia and the US.
Their activities are so extensive that they were putting economic growth in the UK and across the world at risk, officials say.