RSC welcomes Government change of mind on Terrorism Bill clause
05 December 2005
The Royal Society of Chemistry today welcomed the Government's decision to table an amendment to Clause 6 of the Terrorism Bill, following representations by the Society concerned about the implications of the Bill's wording for UK chemical scientists, particularly those working in higher education.
The Bill's original draft clause 6 (1) says:
(1) A person commits an offence if-
(a) he provides instruction or training in any of the skills mentioned in subsection (3); and
(b) at the time he provides the instruction or training, he knows or suspects that a person receiving it intends to use the skills in which he is being instructed or trained-
(i) for or in connection with the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism or Convention offences; or
(ii) for assisting the commission or preparation by others of such acts of offences
The Society argued two weeks ago that the Bill's inclusion of the words "or suspects" was too broadly drafted because legitimate scientific work could be affected and professional chemists be exposed to the risk of prosecution.
Today's tabled Government amendment will omit the words "or suspects" from the Bill. The Society's President, Dr Simon Campbell said: "This is a significant victory for science and for those in the scientific community who have lobbied the Government on this important and hitherto overlooked issue.
"The amendment will help to protect those engaged in legitimate scientific teaching and research and will avoid what would otherwise have been some very undesirable and unintended consequences. The society is very pleased that the Government has been prepared to listen to the reasoned arguments that we put forward and I would like to thank the Home Office Minister of State, Rt Hon Baroness Scotland QC, for having acknowledged that the Government has no desire to stifle or interfere with legitimate academic teaching and discourse and acting to safeguard legitimate science by amending the Bill.
"However there are other aspects of the Bill that are still of concern to the society and we shall be carefully studying the debates next week before deciding whether to press the Government for further amendments to safeguard the legitimate activity of the scientific community."
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