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Nanny state seeks new manacles

UK researchers fear that legislation debated on Monday in the House of Lords could infringe academic freedom.

Pete Moore(pete.moore@dial.pipex.com)

LONDON — The proposed Export Control Bill could severely restrict academic life in the UK, giving the government powers to veto publication of research, place controls on some university teaching and demand licences for overseas graduate students. So say a wide range of academics, members of the House of Lords and various pressure groups lobbying for tighter controls on arms sales. But the minister charged with the task of seeing the bill through the House of Lords, Lord Sainsbury, claimed during the committee stage on Monday 4 March that the fears are without foundation.

In theory, this Bill should pose few problems for academia. It seeks simply to update and replace the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act 1939, a 'temporary' Act that was hurriedly drawn-up to regulate the sale of weapons in the emergency situation of World War II. In 1990 it was amended so that it could...

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