Government targets bomb-making materials and poisons in new crackdown

The Government is to further tighten controls on poisons and chemicals that can be used to make explosives.

Jan 24, 2023
By Paul Jacques
Picture: PA Media

Following the Manchester Arena attack in 2017, the Government committed to enhancing its capabilities to detect terrorist activity including that which involves the use of bomb-making materials, also known as ‘explosives precursors’.

New measures will come into force under the Poisons Act 1972 on October 1 and include improving requirements for 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 said: “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 is our responsibility to ensure our robust controls of these substances are updated and controls 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 under secondary legislation laid by the Government on Monday (January 23). It said this will prevent access to materials of the “highest concern for illicit purposes”, while 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.

Head of Counter-Terrorism Policing Matt Jukes said: “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 received information and intelligence from our communities and also enable us to take targeted and robust enforcement action to keep people safe.”

British Retail Consortium retail products adviser Adrian Simpson added: “Retailers play an important part in reporting any suspicious activity from customers when buying particular chemical products and 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.”

The Poisons Act 1972 already sets out controls of 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 is a legitimate need and no safer alternative. A public consultation ran on the changes from December 2021 to March 2022.

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