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The Telecommunications (Security) Bill has been introduced following concerns, raised initially by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, about the degree to which the Chinese supplier Huawei had become involved in the UK’s telecoms supply chain. In 2019, the then government published the findings of the telecoms supply chain review. This recommended that the Government strengthen the regulation of the telecoms market. It also recommended the Government introduce measures to improve the enforcement of the UK’s telecoms cyber security.

Following the publication of the review, the Government has committed to establish in the UK what it called one of the most robust security frameworks in the world. The Government said this was necessary to meet the security challenges arising from the expansion of 5G and full fibre broadband. Separately, in 2020 the Government published a strategy to encourage greater diversity in the telecoms supply chain to prevent the UK network from being dependent on a limited number of suppliers.

The bill makes a series of amendments to the Communications Act 2003. The bill would establish new security duties on public telecoms providers. It would also expand the role of Ofcom to monitor the compliance by telecoms providers with these new duties. The bill would also enable the secretary of state to introduce measures to prevent telecoms providers from doing business with vendors that the Government has identified as posing a risk to national security.

The bill was introduced in the House of Commons in November 2020. Following the passing of a motion after second reading, it was carried over into the new session and completed its House of Commons stages on 25 May 2021.

The aims of the bill have received cross-party support. However, concerns were raised, including whether powers granted to the secretary of state in the bill will be subject to adequate parliamentary scrutiny. The Opposition asked the Government about the extent to which Ofcom would be resourced to meet its expanded role. It also raised concerns about the delivery of the Government’s commitment to improve diversification of the supply chain. Amendments to the bill reflecting these concerns were tabled by the Opposition at committee stage and report stage. These amendments were voted on and defeated.

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