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The Department for Work and Pensions will remove cameras made by the controversial Chinese CCTV giant Hikvision as Whitehall concerns grow about the company.
The DWP said it “will not be using any security camera equipment manufactured in China” as part of an overhaul of its security systems.
Hikvision, which has more than a million cameras across Britain’s schools, hospitals and police departments, is under increasing scrutiny in the UK over claims that it has aided in the Chinese government’s suppression of its Uyghur minority.
New purchases of the Hikvision equipment have already been banned by the Department for Health and a Hikvision camera recorded Matt Hancock embracing an aide last summer, costing the former health secretary his job.
MPs have called for a ban on government procurement of cameras made by the company. Hikvision is partially owned by the Chinese government and is blacklisted in the US.
In a letter to campaigners at Big Brother Watch, the DWP said: “During the next three years, the department is undertaking a capital investment programme to update and upgrade its physical security systems. The Department will not be using any security camera equipment manufactured in China as part of this programme.”
The department has 194 cameras installed at 51 locations, it said in a Freedom of Information request last year.
Hikvision said that a distribution partner had lost a bid to provide cameras to the DWP.
“It must be clarified that Hikvision does not respond directly to public tenders. Like all manufacturers, we sell through distribution partners and not directly to the end user. Tenders by government departments, which adhere to a strict procurement process are with installer contractors,” a spokesman said.
“In the case of the DWP, one of our partners was invited to bid for the contract in a fair process. On this occasion they came in second in a very competitive tendering process. This was carried out in the same way as any other bid for a public tender, Hikvision was not disqualified on the basis of nationality.
“It is important to note that this is not a sudden rip and replace – all tenders take time to adhere to due process, the DWP tender in question is no exception. Although our partner did not win this particular project they have since been awarded some smaller installations.”
Big Brother Watch said: "The decision to strip out Chinese state-owned CCTV from the Department for Work and Pensions is an enormously welcome development that could not come soon enough, given the role Hikvision plays in the ongoing brutal repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. These surveillance companies have no place in the UK and it is an outrage that taxpayers' money is funding companies so closely linked to genocide.”
The DWP did not comment.