A committee of senior MPs suggested that allowing companies with links to the Beijing regime to participate in the civilian nuclear sector provides “an incentive and opportunity for espionage”.
In its response, the government said it would consider new ways to scrutinize China’s involvement in Hinkley Point C, which is already well underway, but would not impose a blanket ban.
She said: “The government will constantly review the necessary measures to ensure the protection of economic security and vital national infrastructure. All investments related to critical infrastructure are subject to comprehensive scrutiny and need to meet robust legal, regulatory and national security requirements.
Future nuclear projects will be “subject to these individual assessments” which the government describes as a “step-by-step approach” – although a Chinese company has already bought out the Sizewell C project in which it was originally an investor.
Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee said in a report first published in July that “allowing Chinese companies to exercise influence over the UK’s nuclear and civil energy sectors” amounted to “ceding control to the Chinese Communist Party.”
Introducing the government’s response, Rishi Sunak acknowledged that China poses a number of risks to the UK, writing: “I am acutely aware of the particular threat to our open and democratic way of life.”
The Prime Minister said it was essential to “protect the integrity of our democracy from the threats of foreign interference” and “understand how the UK’s diaspora communities are threatened by foreign countries”, as well as defend against cyber attacks on Parliament and government. individual politicians.
In its response, the government rejected calls to provide all universities with a list of research areas that should be considered particularly sensitive and therefore require additional oversight when it comes to Chinese nationals. “The complexity of research topics combined with the pace of development is such that any single specific list of critical research areas will not include sufficient detail and will quickly become outdated,” she said.
The government also confirmed that intelligence services are monitoring China’s “targeting of current and former civil servants”, with all current officials subject to a regular re-examination process to ensure they do not pose a security risk.
The committee warned that its work had been undermined by the number of intelligence personnel now working from home, saying: “As a result, the response to our requests for information has slowed significantly.” But the government said it would “continue to provide opportunities for staff to work from a wider range of locations” rather than crack down on spies working at home.