How worried should we be about China’s involvement in building the Hinkley Point nuclear power station? Even if concerns were raised at the National Security Council about the Chinese involvement, Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, doesn’t appear too concerned. At Defence Questions this afternoon, the shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle said it was ‘frankly astounding’ that the government is allowing China to back the Hinkley Point project — given the ongoing threat from cyberattacks. Fallon told Eagle there was no need to worry because China is only providing money for a French-led project:
‘I hope the honourable lady will join with me in welcoming the president of China on his visit to this country this week. So far as Chinese participant in the Hinkley Point power station is concerned, let me be very clear that this is financial investment. This is a French designed reactor, a French built power station to which there is Chinese finance that is supported them’.
Labour MP Ian Austin also attacked Fallon from the backbenches, saying ‘people out there will think the world has gone mad’ that the government is allowing a ‘Communist dictatorship such a huge role in such a critical party of Britain’s national infrastructure’. Fallon again cited that it was a French project and the independent regulator will be tracking security concerns:
‘Unlike the honourable gentlemen, we welcome Chinese investment in this country, just as there is British investment in China. As I’ve already made clear to the House, this is financial investment in a French-led project to build the new power station at Hinkley Point. Our independent nuclear regulator is well able to make sure all security and safety aspects are well considered.’
Fallon has a point: although the British have a tendency to dislike the French, they at least don’t have the same reputation for cyberattacks as the Chinese. Even though GCHQ are now involved with all aspects of the Hinkley Point project, concerns about vulnerabilities to cyberattacks from foreign nations won’t be easily quashed — especially given that this debate concerns a nuclear power station.