China-based networking giant Huawei has declared that its presence in the UK will be long-term, despite ongoing international security concerns and a parliamentary investigation into its relationship with BT.
Huawei’s commitment to the UK comes at a time when the US has declared that it poses a threat to its national security because of the potential for spying and data theft that could be done on behalf of the Chinese government through infrastructure based on the companies’ equipment.
In contrast, Prime Minister David Cameron has welcomed Huawei with open arms after it promised a £1.3 billion investment up until 2017 in research, development, centres of excellence and procurement.
Speaking today at a Huawei event on superfast broadband in London, Sir Andrew Cahn, chairman of the Huawei UK advisory board, said that the company invested in the UK because it isn’t put off by foreign companies’ money.
He said: “Why did Huawei choose to invest so much in the UK? I can put it down to a few simple things – the UK is open to investment, open to innovation and open to foreign companies.
“The welcoming that the Prime Minister offered to Huawei was warm and encouraging. Of course it’s not just about the open market, but the UK is also a centre of innovation. But, at the bottom of it all, it’s because of the welcome Britain offers to Huawei.”
He added: “Huawei is here for the long-term.”
Ed Vaizey, minister for culture, communications and the creative industries, was also speaking at the event and was quick to express his gratitude to Huawei.
He said: “I’m grateful to Huawei for the small matter of your £1.3 billion investment in the UK over the next five years, which is going to create jobs.”
However, despite the all-round optimism, parliament’s intelligence and security committee is investigating the impact of Huawei having been a supplier to BT of networking equipment since 2005. It is also heavily involved in BT’s national superfast broadband rollout.
If the parliamentary committee issued a report that established similar conclusions to those released in America, it could be a very embarrassing situation for David Cameron who has always aimed to develop a strong trade and political relationship with China.
The committee’s chairmen, Sir Malcolm Rifkin, said earlier this month that a report will be sent to David Cameron by Christmas.
“[We have been] reviewing the whole presence of Huawei in regard to our critical national infrastructure and whether that should give rise to concern,” he said.
“We are looking into the relationship that has developed between Huawei and BT and the implications for the UK.”
He added: “We wanted to look at the historical background to that contract, to what extent there were security concerns at the time, whether and to what extent the British government were involved in these decisions, and whether there have been any causes for concern that have arisen since Huawei became involved in our telecoms infrastructure.”
According to Rifkin, there are allegations circling that claim Huawei has links to the People’s Liberation Army in China, and that any Chinese company is ultimately subject to the Chinese government.
Huawei kicked off its investment in the UK this month by signing a deal with Oxford Properties to move its headquarters to Green Park in Reading.