The Banbury operation of Chinese telecom giant Huawei is to be more closely monitored by GCHQ – the Government’s communications intelligence agency – to ensure its work does not compromise national security.
The results of a government review published last Tuesday by National Security Adviser Sir Kim Darroc stated GCHQ should take a direct role in all senior appointments to Huawei’s HCSEC centre, or The Cell, set up in Banbury in 2010 in a bid to allay security fears.
The review determined a senior member of GCHQ will chair a new oversight board which will review the work of HCSEC to ensure the body has sufficient independent powers of scrutiny.
GCHQ will also take a ‘direct’ role in all senior appointments to The Cell.
The review followed a warning earlier this year by The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) that Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s cyber communications infrastructure could pose a threat to national security, and months of media speculation about the firm’s operation. Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry said any attempt to regulate the firm’s activity would be an exercise in “balancing national security with the need to see trade with China prosper.”
He said: “The firm is at the cutting edge of technology and brings technology from a well-resourced overseas country.
“How does one ensure that on the one hand they can thrive, and on the other that national security is properly protected?
“Most mature countries are feeling their way towards how one protects oneself in these areas with a degree of sensitivity.”
He added: “Everything done by GCHQ would have to be lawful and accountable.”
Huawei has 15 branches in the UK and is one of the world’s largest telecommunications firms, specialising in building communications networks and devices.
Staff at The Cell are engaged to analyse the firm’s electronic products and computer code to ensure they do not infringe on UK national security.
No comment was available from Huawei when the Banbury Guardian went to press.