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'The guidance required by subsection (3) must include guidance about the consideration (if any) to be given,'.[Nigel Griffiths.]
Nigel Griffiths: Hon. Members may be aware that extensive discussion took place in the House of Lords on the Bill's possible impact on the activities of scientists and academics. To address those concerns and make clear their position on these important issues, the Government tabled their own amendmentLords amendment No. 16which protects academic freedom. Opposition amendments Nos. 3, 4, 6 and 10 were passed with the same aim, but they would introduce several highly damaging loopholes. For instance, if they were accepted we could not prevent the transfer abroad of research into the development of torture equipment technology.
I shall explain how the Bill and amendment No. 16 provide protections to ensure that the Bill cannot be misused to damage academic freedoms. I shall also explain the damaging consequences of the Opposition amendments, in the hope that hon. Members will agree to their being overturned.
The academic community has acknowledged its concern not about the controls that the Government plan to introduce through the Bill, but about whether a future Government could misuse the powers in the Bill. Baroness Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK, stated during a debate in the other place that, after discussions with the Government, UUK was convinced that they in no way wanted to impinge on academic freedom by way of the Bill. Universities UK was nevertheless keen for the protections for academic freedom in secondary legislation under the Bill to be backed up by a statement in the House that the Government intended to protect academic freedom in that way. Lord Sainsbury made such a statement in the other place, and I can happily give the same assurance here today.
There are already strict limits on how the Bill's powers could be used. They can be used only to control exports or transfers required by our international obligations on military equipment and technology and on exports or transfers that could have serious consequences, such as contributing to weapons of mass destruction programmes, or human rights abuses. In spite of that, Universities UK and others, including parliamentary colleagues, requested that a clear commitment to academic freedom be set out in the Bill. In response, the Government introduced Lords amendment No. 16. That makes clear that the Secretary of State, when making secondary legislation under the Bill, must avoid unreasonable restrictions on putting information in the public domain or communicating material already in the public domain.
Although the amendment does not use the words "academic freedom", it goes to the heart of what academic freedom is about. It protects freedoms for all, not just for members of the academic community, including freedoms to publish, or otherwise make publicly available, research and to communicate it to students and others. That reflects the fact that scientific and other research is carried out far more widely than just in the academic world. Therefore the rules applying to such research should apply equally to all undertaking ita matter of some concern, I understand, to the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key).
Under the amendment, any order under the Bill that attempted to place an unreasonable restriction on publication or communication could be opposed in the courts. We have tested the effect of the amendment on a list of scenarios sent to us by Universities UK which illustrated the kind of situation that universities were concerned about. The answers to those scenarios illustrateI hopethat the Bill will not, and could not, be used to damage academic freedoms. The details are available in the Library. The Government are nevertheless willing to continue working with Universities UK and others to consider any remaining concerns or proposals they may have in relation to the Bill.
The Government amendment, Lords amendment No. 16, also ensures that any controls introduced under the Bill can be kept in line with our obligations under international regimes, such as the missile technology control regime and the Wassenaar arrangement. That is because it will enable us to keep the exemptions for information in the public domain contained in secondary legislation in line with the international concepts and definitions used.
The Opposition's amendment, Lords amendment No. 10, sought to protect academic freedoms, but unlike the Government amendment, it would also create very damaging loopholes in the Bill. I shall explain what those are. First, subsections 1(a) and (b) of the amendment would establish in secondary legislation an immutable exemption for information in, or being placed in, the public domain, unless the transfer was related to weapons of mass destruction or required by international treaty obligations. Because that exemption could not be adapted except by primary legislation, Lords amendment No. 10 would prevent the UK from complying with its commitments to voluntary export control regimes such as the Wassenaar arrangement and the missile technology control regime, if those agreed any change to the definition used, as they might do. As the House will know, those international regimes form a crucial part of global efforts to combat proliferation of conventional and
Subsection 1(c) of Lords amendment No. 10 would exempt from control any and all information transferred in the course of academic teaching or research unless the transfer was related to weapons of mass destruction or involved military technology. That would exempt anyone engaged in academic research and teaching from controls on the transfer of technology capable of causing the consequences listed in the schedule to the Bill, such as human rights abuses, internal repression or facilitation of terrorism or serious crime. It would therefore permit an academic to contravene the Government's 1997 ban on export of equipment and related technology about which we have had evidence that it has been used in tortureby sending overseas research results on how to make, for example, electric shock batons. It is unacceptable in the Government's view that any one group should be automatically exempted from our export control regime in that way. The all-party Quadripartite Select Committee agreed with that view in its report on the draft Bill, stating:
Lords amendment No. 4, also tabled by the Opposition, would remove clause 2(2)(c) and 2(2)(d) from the Bill. The Opposition suggested in the other place that those clauses could be used to require overseas students to obtain licences to study in the UK. Let me assure the House that that is simply not the case. The Bill could not be used to license overseas students' presence in the UK. However, the powers that amendment No. 4 would remove are crucial if we are to have a comprehensive export control regime. Those powers would give the Government the power to impose controls on transfers of technology within or into the UK where the technology transferred was intended for use outside the UK.
Without those powers, we would have a huge loophole in the Bill. Let me explain why. As well as being exported physically or electronically, technology can in effect be exported through communications in person, either in the UK or overseasfor example, an expert going overseas and providing training there could be effectively exporting technology. The European Union joint action on provision of technical assistance to weapons of mass destruction programmes requires us to control such transfers of technology by UK persons overseas that are destined for use in WMD programmes. But exactly the same transfer of WMD-related technology to exactly the same person
It would be absurd if a licence was needed for the overseas transfer, but not if the same transfer took place in the UK. Equally it would make a nonsense of the controls if they could be evaded by a UK person overseas transferring technology into the UK in the knowledge that the receiver intended to take that information and use it overseas. That is why we have proposed to introduce controls on such transfers within and into the UK. However, we recognise that regulating these types of transfers is difficult, so we have made it clear that these controls will apply only to the areas of greatest concernnamely, weapons of mass destruction and related missile programmes.
We need clause 2(2)(c) and 2(2)(d) of the Bill if we are to have effective controls against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, our proposals in this area were strongly supported by the all-party Quadripartite Committee, which pointed out that
The Government have made every effort to address the academic community's concerns about the Bill. We believe that Lords amendment No. 16 strikes the correct balance between the need to protect the freedom of academics and others engaged in teaching and research and the need for an effective export control regime. I urge the House to accept the amendment and to overturn Lords amendments Nos. 3, 4, 6 and 10.