‘Risky’ Chinese cameras could be stripped from UK official buildings under new legislation to protect national security
- Installing Hikvision cameras was banned in November on security grounds
- The Procurement Bill aims to protect national security and toughen up on China
Chinese firms could be blocked from sensitive government contracts and Beijing-linked cameras will be stripped from official buildings under new legislation to protect national security.
The Cabinet Office also said last night a taskforce will be set up to investigate suppliers that pose a potential risk to Britain.
The Government has tabled several amendments to the Procurement Bill ahead of its return to Parliament next week following cross-party calls to toughen up the stance on China.
The bill – part of Britain’s post-Brexit reform of procurement policy – will introduce rules for firms competing for government contracts.
New measures will give ministers the power to ban suppliers from specific sensitive sectors such as defence and national security.
Beijing-linked cameras will be stripped from official buildings under new legislation to protect national security
Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin said: ‘These new measures will protect our sensitive sectors from companies which could threaten national security and are a firm deterrence to hostile actors who wish to do Britain harm.’
The move follows months of warnings from senior Tories that the Procurement Bill – seen as a key legislative instrument that could stave off Beijing’s influence in the UK – did not go far enough.
Beijing’s National Intelligence Law forces Chinese firms to hand over data if demanded by the authorities, sparking fears sensitive information held by companies operating surveillance kit in Britain could be extracted.
Tory MP Alicia Kearns, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, who has been lobbying the Government to toughen up the Procurement Bill, said: ‘From local councils to power plants, and security bodies like GCHQ, we must make sure hostile states cannot embed state-subsidised hostile technologies into our lives which capture and exfiltrate our data to the Chinese Communist Party and other hostile states and actors.
‘The creation of a National Security Procurement unit, and the beefing up of the debarment list were my main asks and will help ensure downright dangerous technologies will not operate at sensitive sites, key national infrastructure, nor on our streets.’
The Government has also committed to publishing a timeline for the removal of Chinese-made surveillance equipment on official buildings.
The installation of Hikvision cameras was banned in November on security grounds.
Luke de Pulford, of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, said: ‘We need to see all the detail, but [we’re] cautiously optimistic about this encouraging announcement.’
The installation of Hikvision cameras was banned in November on security grounds (pictured installed for the King’s Coronation at the Buckingham gate entrance to St James’s Park)
Rishi Sunak has come under pressure to toughen his stance on China since becoming PM.
In November he said: ‘We recognise China poses a systemic challenge to our values and interests, a challenge that grows more acute as it moves towards even greater authoritarianism.’
But earlier this year he risked angering China hawks by refusing to designate the country as a threat.
Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister Florence Eshalomi said: ‘Labour has long been urging Ministers to toughen up their Procurement Bill and we’ll continue our efforts when the Bill returns to Parliament next week.’
It came after Security Minister Tom Tugendhat branded the running of ‘police stations’ in the UK from China ‘unacceptable’ and said they must not ‘operate in any form’.
He has investigated claims of unofficial stations being used to monitor dispersed communities and coerce people to return to China.
Although no illegal activity on behalf of the Chinese state was found, the sites were set up ‘without consulting’ the British Government.