Rebel Tory MPs put down amendment to bar Huawei technology | Technology

A group of eight Conservative rebel MPs, including four former cabinet ministers, have put down an amendment calling on the government to eliminate all Huawei technology from the UK’s mobile phone networks by the end of 2022.

Led by Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Owen Paterson, David Davis and Damian Green, the rebels hope to stage a show of strength – although it is not clear whether they can attract the 44 votes needed to threaten Boris Johnson’s majority.

There are some claims they could threaten the government if all opposition parties supported them, but one rebel source told the Guardian the true number of Tory malcontents was in the 30s, not enough to force a defeat.

Insiders said the amendment represented the first step in a “guerrilla” campaign aimed at prompting a rethink in Downing Street, in tandem with pressure from the White House, which is strongly opposed to the deployment of Huawei.

The White House and the Conservative rebels believe technology from the Chinese firm represents a potential surveillance risk, but Downing Street and Britain’s spy agencies believe any risks can be managed, based partly on their experience of the kit.

The amendment is attached to an obscure technical bill, the telecommunications infrastructure bill, and is unlikely to be effective if passed because the proposed legislation only applies where leasehold property owners are unresponsive to phone companies.

It does, however, represent an opportunity for rebels to declare their numbers before Downing Street puts forward legislation to implement its Huawei decision to a vote later in the spring.

Last month, Boris Johnson’s government announced plans to cap Huawei’s market share in 5G at 35%. The rebels want the UK to eliminate the Chinese company’s involvement entirely, even though it has been used in British networks since 2003.

On Thursday, Ben Wallace, the British defence secretary, met his US counterpart, Mark Esper, for a “candid discussion” about Britain’s 5G plans.

Esper said he was particularly concerned about the security of intelligence-sharing between the two countries, and that any Chinese involvement “could allow Beijing to access, disrupt, manipulate and misuse vital information, thus jeopardising the integrity and strength of the Nato alliance”.

Wallace said Huawei was going to be prevented from supplying core technology to British networks, and that ministers aimed to reduce its share below the proposed 35%, without giving any commitment to go to zero as the rebels demand. British policy was to “ban, cap and cut”, he said.

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