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Lord Hunt of Chesterton: I declare an interest as a professor at University College. I support the principles of the amendment and of Amendments Nos. 48ZB and 48ZC, which involve a matter of law and of administration.
The Bill has given rise to very considerable concern among academics involved in advanced science and technology. The e-mails have fairly been humming this week. Those who are particularly concerned are involved in computer science and, especially, cryptography. They fear that the Bill will empower officials to prevent them from communicating their research, from collaborating on advanced projects with other countries, from recruiting research students and even from teaching abroad.
Some of the concerns and suspicions have arisen because of unfortunate interactionsI can think of no other way to put itbetween officials in various government departments and the academics who are involved in these advanced areas of technology. Those interactions gave rise to considerable grounds for suspicion. Despite the best expressions from the Minister, an extremely explicit statement in the Bill is required to overcome those concerns. We need virtually a procedural development to ensure that once the Bill is enacted, there will be open discussions and seminars between the officials who will administer the matter and the universities affected. That way, everyone will understand what is involved. There is currently considerable difficulty.
As the Bill stands, it may prevent the placing of certain academic information in the public domain. Members of the Committee may not be aware that the United States has established very draconian powers along the lines that some people fear exist in the Bill. Those powers involve controlling the publication and communication of science. In relation to some scientific projects in the United States, it is obligatory for the academics involved to send copies of all e-mails to certain members of the US Government. We in the United Kingdom have benefited from such restrictions in the United Statessome of the affected people have come to this country. Do we want the same situation to occur in relation to this country?
One worrying feature of the Bill is that it may lead to the anonymous application of such control powers. As we have heard, some universities have refused to accede to such an anonymous application of power, whereas other universities have gone along with it. There is a concern that a university may have to decline foreign students and accept that that is the responsibility not of Her Majesty's Government but of the university. The fear of having to be not explicit, as it were, is at the heart of some of the concerns.
Finally, I believe that the Bill is important. Where there are major risks, the Government must be clear that they are taking responsibility for them and are not using universities in the way I have described. I very much hope that the amendment is agreed to.
Lord Morgan: I follow my noble friend Lord Hunt and the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, in expressing my deep disquiet about this aspect of the Bill, which otherwise I am perfectly happy to support. The principle underlying it is the political vetting of research. Academics will be second-guessed by bureaucrats or politicians who will say that their research is or is not "in the national interest".
Unless the Bill is altered, that is how it will remain, and there is nothing more destructive to intellectual freedom and freedom of inquiry. The proposal covers the whole extent of researchso broad is the definition of technology and the work done on it. It covers teaching, research and publication. It is deeply worrying that all those areas will be open and that the proposal will also affect the prospect of people coming here to work on research and the beneficial interchange that flows from that.
I do not believe that it is sufficient to rely on secondary legislation. The 20th century is absolutely riddled with examples, from McCarthyism onwards, where academics have found that all types of unexpected legal obstacles have turned out to be more serious than they were thought to be. I believe that Aneurin Bevan said that one guarantees a freedom by adding another freedom to it. I believe that that is profoundly relevant in this case.
As a member of the Association of University Teachers and an ex-member of what in my day was called the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principalsit now has a jazzed-up nameI share the concerns. Three fundamental principles are threatened: the freedoms of inquiry and thought; the freedom of movement of academics abroad and of research students here; and the internationalism of universities. Universities are truly part of a republic of learning that knows no boundaries. They should not be contained by bureaucratic definitions of the "national interest". Therefore, I hope that the Government will alter this provision and that they will specifically write in safeguards which are not there at present; otherwise, at some point in the future we shall be in danger of going the way of totalitarian regimes all over the world.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: It was a long time ago, but I apologise to the noble Baroness if any inconvenience was caused by changing round the clauses. I shall look into the matter to ensure that it does not happen again. I believed that, in writing to her about where the New Statesman article was wrong, I
I shall deal at length with this issue because I believe that a great deal of misinformation has been put out about it. Having suffered for many years from professors telling me to read the question carefully, I suggest to them that they read the legislation carefully and also look at the dummy orders that have been carefully produced to cover this point.
I should point out that I am not only the Minister with responsibility for taking the Bill through this House; I am also the Minister with responsibility for science and innovation. I have spent almost the past four years saying how important it is that we have international contacts for science. I am proud of the fact that in this country we carry out 4.5 per cent of all the world's science. That means that 95 per cent of the science in the world is carried out by other countries. If we are to remain a world-class scientific nation, we must have constant and frequent contact with those other scientists.
Equally, I believe that there is nothing in the Bill and in the legislation that we are producing that in any way prevents that from happening. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Watson, that it is not a question of what my or the Government's intentions might be; it is a matter of what the Bill and the secondary legislation says and a question of what other legislation exists to prevent the secondary legislation being altered in a way that would make it difficult for scientists.
Amendment No. 48ZA seeks to place on the face of the Bill an exclusion from control of any information which is in the public domain or is placed in the public domain. It also seeks to exclude information transferred during the course of academic teaching or research unless the person transferring the information knows that that could have been one of the consequences listed in the schedule to the Bill. Amendments Nos. 48ZB, 48ZC and 48ZD would modify the amendment to allow the Secretary of State to prevent information being placed in the public domain by informing a person that publication of data would have a relevant consequence as defined in the schedule.
We have made clear that exemptions for information which is in or is being put into the public domain will apply to the new controls on intangible transfers to be introduced under the Bill. That means that if one publishes a scientific paper or refers to information already in the public domain, it is not in any way controlled under the Bill. There will also be exemptions for basic scientific research where the equivalent export in physical form would be exempt.
However, perhaps I may explain why it is extremely difficult to include such exemptions in primary legislation, as the new clause seeks to do. Strategic export controls derive largely from international obligations. The Bill must provide the Government with the powers to implement those international obligations and to adapt their controls to reflect any
That regulation, in turn, uses a concept of "public domain" derived from the international export control regimes, including, for example, the Wassenaar arrangement. That agreement is signed up to by 33 countries, including the United States and most of the major industrial countries in the world. The definition of "public domain" is kept under review by the international regimes, and the Government consider it crucial to be able to keep our own national legislation in line with the international concept and definitions used. The proposed new clause would mean that any changes to definitions used by the international regimes could be incorporated into UK law only by means of new primary legislation, making it impossible for the Government to respond to and implement international commitments promptly.
Moreover, under European Community legislation there already exists a specific control on the export or transfer by electronic means of information in the public domain. The European Community regulation to which I referred, which has been in force in the UK since September 2000, together with the UK's Dual-Use (Export Control) Regulations, imposes controls on the transfer of technology by physical or electronic means where the provider knows, is informed by government or has grounds for suspecting that the technology or software is or may be intended for use in connection with weapons of mass destruction or related missile programmes.
No exemptions apply in respect of this end-use control. That is because the view of all members of the European Community is that knowingly to send to a weapons of mass destruction proliferator even a published book or journal which could contribute in some way to that weapons programme would be wrong. The proposed new clause would prevent the Government from continuing to implement that control in full.
I hope that all Members of the Committee will agree that to have an export control Bill which did not enable us to prevent information knowingly being given to people who wished to create weapons of mass destruction would be an absurdity. That we should spend our time in this Chamber debating whether we can control the movement of firearms from one part of the world to anothernone of them in Britainand at the same time
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