A Public Bill Committee is a committee set up by the House of Commons to examine the details of a particular Bill. All Bills, other than Money Bills, are automatically sent in a Public Bill Committee following their second reading unless they are committed to a Committee of the whole House. The composition of the committees must match the size of the parties in the House.
After the second reading of a bill, it is customary for the bill to be referred to a Public Bill Committee for further scrutiny.
The Telecommunications (Security) Bill would bring in a new regulatory framework for telecommunications security. The Bill follows a cross-government review of UK telecommunications supply chains led by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport from November 2018 and reporting in July 2019. The review focused on the supply chain arrangements for UK telecoms networks (where and from which companies UK telecoms networks source their equipment) and included an assessment of the wider security regulatory framework for telecoms. The Bill is set against a backdrop of security-related concerns with the involvement of Chinese technology company Huawei in telecoms infrastructure in the UK and abroad.
The Bill introduces a ‘new security framework for the UK telecoms sector to ensure that public telecommunications providers operate secure and resilient networks and services and manage their supply chains appropriately’. The Bill would place stronger duties and responsibilities on telecoms providers, and stronger powers for Ofcom, the UK telecoms regulator, to enforce those duties. The Bill includes new powers for the Secretary of State to set telecoms security requirements in regulations and codes of practice. The Bill would also give new national security powers to the Secretary of State to impose directions on telecoms providers with regard to “high risk vendors”. The Government stated that the Bill would “give the UK one of the toughest telecoms security regimes in the world”.