Brian Sims
Editor

Government seeks to tighten controls on bomb-making materials and poisons

THE GOVERNMENT has laid secondary legislation in a determined bid to further tighten the controls in place for poisons and chemicals (also known as ‘explosives precursors’) which can be used to manufacture explosives. The overarching intention is to update the Poisons Act 1972.

Following the Manchester Arena terror attack in 2017, the Government committed to enhancing its capabilities to detect terrorist activity, including that which involves the use of bomb-making materials.

The proposal is for new measures to come into force on 1 October 2023 and include improving requirements for the reporting of suspicious activity, adding new substances, providing additional obligations on online marketplaces and requiring that certain information is recorded when selling regulated explosives precursors to business users.

Security minister Tom Tugendhat explained: “Around the UK, businesses and individuals use various chemicals for a wide range of legitimate uses. However, we must also minimise the risk posed by the illicit use of bomb making materials and poisons. It’s our responsibility to ensure that our robust controls of these substances are updated and also that controls are in place against those who wish to abuse them. These steps will do just that.”

New chemicals will be added to the lists of reportable and regulated substances. This will prevent access to materials of the highest concern for illicit purposes, while in parallel maintaining access for legitimate purposes. Shops and businesses will continue to be required to report any suspicious transactions and to report any significant losses or thefts.

A public consultation process ran from December 2021 through to March 2022.

Important role for retailers

Adrian Simpson (retail products advisor for the British Retail Consortium) commented: “Retailers play an important part in reporting any suspicious activity from customers when they’re buying particular chemical products. We welcome these important legislative changes, which will better protect the public. Retailers will ensure they clearly communicate all changes to their customers and will provide additional information online to explain the risks associated with certain products.”

Matt Jukes (head of counter-terrorism policing) added: “Every year, reports from the public, including industry and businesses, play a vital role in how we tackle the terrorist threat in the UK. These new measures will serve to enhance how we receive information and intelligence from our communities and also enable us to take targeted and robust enforcement action to keep people safe.”

The Poisons Act 1972 already sets out controls for chemicals which can be used to make explosives and poisons, restricting the general public’s access to the most dangerous materials. It permits a licensing regime for the purchase and use of regulated substances where there’s a legitimate need and no safer alternative.

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