Guto Harri must declare any recent contact with Huawei, says ex-MI6 chief

Guto Harri should declare any recent contact with Huawei and confirm he supports banning the Chinese firm from Britain’s 5G network, a former MI6 chief has said.

Sir Richard Dearlove on Tuesday night called for the Prime Minister’s new director of communications to make public the extent of his past association with the Chinese telecoms giant and to clarify his current views on it.

The intervention came after The Sun revealed that Mr Harri asked a senior adviser to Boris Johnson which ministers could receive a “nudge” for his client Huawei in June 2020.

Mr Harri represented Hawthorn Advisors, the lobbying firm, during the 25-minute video call that included Huawei executives, as well as Lord Udny-Lister, the Prime Minister’s chief strategic adviser at the time.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman confirmed on Tuesday that a meeting had taken place, adding: “That is within the rules, obviously we met with a number of interested parties at that time while that discussion was taking place.”

Mr Harri’s conduct was “in full compliance with the guidance”, the Downing Street spokesman added.

Minutes of the event recorded that Lord Udny-Lister stressed that Mr Johnson was not “anti-China” and wanted the technology rolled out, but was “caught” between hawkish Tory MPs and US administration, both of which wanted the Chinese firm banned from involvement in it.

The minutes suggested that Mr Harri asked if there were “any – ministers we should talk to? Perhaps give a nudge in DCMS [Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] or Treasury?” 

A month after the meeting, in July 2020, the Government announced a ban on Huawei kit in 5G networks by 2027 due to security concerns.

Downing Street said on Tuesday that Mr Johnson had a “clear-eyed” approach to Beijing, but acknowledged he had branded himself a “Sinophile” and insisted it was in the UK’s interest to “have an effective relationship with China”.

Sir Richard Dearlove Sir Richard Dearlove said he hopes that Guto Harri has ‘distanced himself from Huawei’ Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

Sir Richard, the former head of the Secret Intelligence Service, said of Mr Harri: “I hope he has distanced himself from Huawei, has not recently been in receipt of their money and has changed his view as the Government’s policy has changed.”

The ex-spy chief told The Telegraph: “It would be a good idea if he’s working in Number 10 to clarify these issues. Given his past association with Huawei, it would be nice to have clarity that it’s no longer extant.”

However, other Tory sources derided the idea that Mr Harri should be asked to make public statements about his personal views, arguing he had been appointed to advise Mr Johnson on his communications strategy.

It came as China hawks urged the Prime Minister to appoint a Beijing-sceptic as an adviser to ensure the faction’s perspective was being heard in Downing Street, suggesting “senior UK figures in the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China [Ipac]” should be considered.

A Number 10 spokesman said: “Huawei was a client of Hawthorn. Guto Harri resigned from Hawthorn before taking up his position at No 10.”

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