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The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 48ZB, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 48ZC and 48ZD. I need not detain the Committee long on this matter. The amendments seek to clarify the situation and to spell out a little further Amendment No. 48ZA. Amendment No. 48ZB is self-explanatory. It is a minor amendment. The word "already" adds a little clarification, but it is purely clarification.
Amendment No. 48ZC picks up the words that the Government used in their commentary on the Bill. As I say, it provides a little further clarification which we believe is useful. It refers to publication in the ordinary course of academic teaching or research, but also enables concerns about certain material to be met. It places the onus specifically on the Secretary of State. I refer to a situation in which an academic knows that the material he or she is publishing contravenes the terms of the schedule; namely, that it concerns
Amendment No. 48ZD omits the words, "ought to have known" as it seems to me that one either knows or does not know about the matter we are discussing. The words "ought to have known" would lead to much uncertainty and it is, therefore, better for them to be omitted. The insertion of the words,
While I am on my feet I should say how much I sympathise with the case that has been made by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. It is extremely important that we have on the face of the Bill not just promises as regards secondary legislation but that academic freedom is upheld and recognised. There are dangers as regards censorship being imposed and the Secretary of State having the right to censor academic publications. These days when publication involves not just written material but also software and e-mails, it is extremely difficult to maintain that stance. It is not necessary for the Secretary of State to have these wide, sweeping powers.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, mentioned the danger that the Secretary of State is in effect also seeking a power to license foreign research students. There is currently a voluntary agreement with the universities as regards vetting foreign research students entering this country. However, it is implied that that would be made compulsory. Research today is an international and multinational business. Collaboration is the name of the game. One corresponds constantly with other people. One should not need to ask oneself, "Should I stop doing this because there is a danger that I may breach the terms of the export control legislation"? It should be made quite clear that in a limited number of circumstances an academic has a responsibility to consider such matters; that is, when he or she knows that they are breaching the terms of the schedule in relation to weapons of mass destruction or missile technology as regards material which might be of value to enemies of the state. However, apart from those circumstances, or where the Secretary of State explicitly makes a request in relation to certain material, it is most unfortunate and most regressive that the Government are proposing these powers. I beg to move.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I have not so far taken part in the proceedings on the Bill. However, I support what my noble friend Lady Miller said and the spirit of the group of amendments. I refer to my experience on the governing bodies of two universities in Scotland and of the Open University, to which the amendment is particularly applicable. I remind the Committee that this matter does not concern only Oxford and Cambridge, about which we have heard so much, although there is nothing wrong with either Oxford or
Too often legislation inadvertently becomes part of the law of unintended consequences. I believe that the Bill is probably a case in point of a quite dangerous nature. At various stages the Government have discussed these problems with the universitieswith university teachers and vice-chancellor representativesand I understand that they have moved in certain respects. However, the fact remains that there is nothing on the face of the Bill to ensure that the international dimension of what universities do in the ordinary course of their work is not caught by it.
I am sure that the Minister understands that point; he is in a good position to do so. I hope that the word "resist" is not written across his brief. I look forward to cutting out, framing and hanging somewhere in my house the words he used when he resisted one of the amendments, as I considered that a special example of resistance by a government.
The point at issue here is most important. I hope that the Minister will take it on board. I suspect that the wording of the amendments will have to be a matter for the Government, because this is a complicated business. I hope that the noble Lord will give us an assurance that this protection will be placed on the face of the Bill. It is not good enough for such provision to be covered by secondary legislation; it must be on the face of the Bill. I trust the Minister will tell us that that is his intention.
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe: While speaking in favour of the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, I must declare an interest as the chief executive of Universities UK. At the outset, I should point out that the purpose of the Bill is one that Universities UK has welcomed since it was first considered in 1998. Universities welcome measures that are designed to bring up to date legislation that dates back to before the Second World War. The existing position is clearly unsatisfactory. But at the same time, we made it clear in our response to the Government's White Paper in 1998and, indeed, reiterated that point before the Quadripartite Committee in another placethat there is a compelling need to secure academic freedom in the Bill for those who carry out vital, cutting edge research in our higher education institutions.
My point is that we must not throw out the vital baby of academic endeavour with the murky bath water of an insecure world. The Government have certainly moved their position since 1998, and they now accept that there is legitimate concern in this respect. We welcome the fact that the present Bill has gone some way towards addressing the concerns expressed in 1998 about interference with legitimate academic activities, but the academic community is not convinced that the right balance has yet been
As has already been pointed out, the vice-chancellors are united with their academic staff through the Association of University Teachers in seeking an amendment to the Bill. Many of the criticisms and concerns that have been brought to my attention have already been articulated by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. However, the wide definitions in the Bill have also caused concern. The phrase "relevant consequences" in the schedule is so wide that a large swathe of science and technology potentially falls within it. I am sure that that would not be the Government's intention.
It is very important to stress that many of the concerns are about potential dangersmany of which the Government have already accepted and plan to deal with in secondary legislation. That is an option that Universities UK has discussed with government officials. Those talks have convinced us that the Government in no way want to impinge upon academic freedom by way of the Bill. But academics would see this incorporation in secondary legislation as being very much a second-best option. Even with secondary legislation, the dangers would seem to remain: they will stay set out in primary legislation that could, in theory, be used by a government some time down the line. So, in my view, secondary legislation would be seen as a weak guarantee of freedom.
Ministers have indicated that one reason for leaving much of the detail to secondary legislation is to allow them to adapt quickly the export control regime to changing international obligations. Obviously, that is a sensibly pragmatic approach. But it is with the same ease that the export control regime could be adapted to meet international obligations that the guarantee of academic freedom could be altered, as it is set out in exactly the same way. It is also difficult to envisage how a guarantee of academic freedom on the face of the legislation could impinge on the UK's international obligations in the future. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend the Minister will enlighten the Committee.
I do not wish to rehearse these points any further. I believe that a debate on such points is vital. The issue has certainly caused an enormous amount of concern in the academic community. I look forward to hearing what guarantees my noble friend can offer that community.
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