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UK Procurement Ban Bill Impacting Hikvision Analyzed

Published Jan 26, 2023 12:08 PM

A bill in the UK parliament proposes to ban the procurement of physical technology or surveillance equipment from companies implicated in slavery, genocide, or crimes against humanity. If passed, parliamentarians expect the new rules to prohibit products from several PRC tech firms including Hikvision, Dahua, and Huawei.

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The UK parliament is considering legislation - the "Procurement Bill" - to reform government procurement, in particular regulations still based on EU law after Brexit. Among the bill's provisions is Clause 65, which requires "removal of physical technology or surveillance equipment" with ties to rights abuses from government supply chains:

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In November, Clause 65 was introduced and passed in the House of Lords as an amendment to the original Procurement Bill. If passed in the House of Commons, officials will have 6 months to determine which firms qualify as being involved in modern slavery, genocide, or crimes against humanity.

Parliamentarians in both houses have said Clause 65 would ban the procurement of Hikvision, which is already restricted in the UK for security reasons. This includes the amendment's chief backer Lord David Alton, who said it would "strip out Hikvision surveillance state cameras."

In the Research section of this report, we analyze the supporters and opponents of this clause, the next steps in the legislative process (including tactics to remove and ensure the clause is kept), plus the probability of banning Hikvision.

Supporters/Opponents of Clause 65

The Government under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has not yet declared whether they will support or oppose Clause 65.

Cabinet Minister and Paymaster General Jeremy Quin - who introduced the original Procurement Bill - told MPs the Government is still considering it:

We are thinking through the Lords amendments, and there will be further time to discuss them in Committee.

However, he insinuated they may not support Clause 65, saying proposals must be "workable" and that other provisions can "prevent inappropriate suppliers."

Anything that is added to the Bill must be deliverable and workable. I stress that the Bill already contains much-enhanced provisions to ensure we can prevent inappropriate suppliers from coming into our production chain, not just as primes at the top level but right through the supply chain. For example, we will be able to debar companies for misconduct or illegality.

Nonetheless, Clause 65 has multi-party support, including from within the ruling Conservative Party.

In debate on January 9th, Conservative MP Tim Loughton praised the amendment:

Clause 65 was helpfully added by the noble Lord Alton and a cross-party alliance in the other House to make sure that we do not procure from countries found guilty of genocide or human rights abuses, particularly China.

As did Conservative MP Alicia Kearns:

It is morally unacceptable that we choose to use a surveillance system that actively racially profiles Uyghurs within our own systems. It is tantamount to facilitating genocide, because we are funding the Chinese Government and enabling them to continue to do what they do.

And MP Kirsty Blackman indicated the Scottish National Party (SNP) will support Clause 65, saying the SNP wants to "ensure that public procurement does not work to enrich those who profit from crimes against humanity."

Next Steps

The Procurement Bill will now be considered by the Public Bills Committee, a smaller group of MPs that scrutinizes legislation and debates amendments. Clause 65 could be removed at this stage, particularly if the Government comes out against it.

If removed in committee, Clause 65 can still be reinserted by a majority vote of the House of Commons at the Report Stage, when MPs have the opportunity to further amend the Procurement Bill.

The Government has not provided a timeline for when it plans to finish the committee process, or take the bill to a vote, but sources told IPVM this could occur within two months.

If Clause 65 makes it past the Report Stage, it will almost certainly pass since the Procurement Bill is backed by the Conservative Party majority in the House of Commons.

Analysis of Clause 65's Chances

The chances that Clause 65 will pass depend mostly but not entirely on the Government's decision to support or oppose it. In the latter case, it could still pass given broad support in Parliament and the need to pass the Procurement Bill.

While the UK Government is increasingly restricting Hikvision specifically, it may not support Clause 65's broader ban on rights-abusing firms. The UK is facing economic difficulties, meaning there is less appetite for new regulations that increase costs or complexity for businesses and the government, as Clause 65 is likely to do.

If the Government opposes, it would remove the amendment in committee. However, sources tell IPVM that even if Clause 65 is removed in committee, MPs will reintroduce the amendment once the Procurement Bill returns to the House of Commons.

A majority vote is necessary to override the Government, but it has the support of respected MPs from other parties and Conservative MPs. This includes Sir Iain Duncan Smith, whom sources told IPVM plans fight to keep Clause 65 at the Report Stage.

If a majority of MPs vote in favor, Clause 65 will be part of the bill and the Government cannot remove it. At this stage, it will almost certainly pass since the alternative is for the Government to oppose its own Procurement Bill entirely.

Would Clause 65 Ban Hikvision?

While Government has not explained how it will decide if companies are "involved in - a) modern slavery b) genocide, or c) crimes against humanity," the evidence is strongly in favor of Hikvision's inclusion.

Hikvision is closely tied to the PRC's crackdown on Uyghurs in Xinjiang as a provider and operator of mass surveillance systems targeting the ethnic minority. The UK parliament already declared the PRC is committing genocide in Xinjiang in 2021, while a 2022 UN report found the PRC may be committing crimes against humanity and emphasized the importance of surveillance.

Among other issues, Hikvision has multiple large-scale government contracts including mosque and concentration camp surveillance, and marketed technology designed to target Uyghurs.

The government will likely consider other firms as well, such as Dahua, Tiandy, Uniview, Alibaba, or Huawei. Like Hikvision, Dahua has multiple large-scale contracts in Xinjiang, and Dahua, Tiandy, Uniview, Alibaba, and Huawei have all marketed Uyghur recognition technology.

Comments (2)
Conor Healy
Jan 26, 2023
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Jan 31, 2023

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