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Author: Subject: Roll call: which UK amateur scientists here will write to their MP?
Fusionfire
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[*] posted on 10-10-2012 at 11:52
Roll call: which UK amateur scientists here will write to their MP?


Dear all,

It now seems that chemical suppliers in the UK will not ship to individuals or even registered businesses in residential addresses. Some are going so far as to demand a VAT registration number.

I have on record that the reason for this is pressure from the UK Home Office. To quote an email forwarded to me by a friend who tried to buy from Euro Lab Supplies (the online ordering branch of LP Chemicals):

Quote:

Unfortunately we now only supply chemicals to UK registered companies at their works address. We no longer supply hazardous chemicals to
individuals, or to businesses at a residential address. This is standard working practice within our industry and follows advice from the Home Office. We will, therefore, not be able to supply your order on this occasion.


So I'm asking for UK amateur scientists to get together and lobby their MP to challenge this pressure from the Home Office. Who here is up for it?

AFAIK this pressure from the Home Office is unlawful. There is no provision in law for the HO to order laboratory supply companies to restrict sales to individuals or very small businesses based on prejudice that they may be up to no good.
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hissingnoise
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[*] posted on 10-10-2012 at 12:51


Quote:
Roll call: which UK amateur scientists here will write to their MP?

I'd urge caution ─ Teresa May would like nothing more than being able to compile lists of 'malcontents' . . .

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Dave Angel
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[*] posted on 10-10-2012 at 13:08


Now there's a pro-active idea!

This goes completely against my personal 'head below parapets' stance and I'd personally find it difficult to sleep at night knowing that I'd given my details to the government, screaming (from their POV) 'I have access to chemicals and I'm annoyed at your policies'. Remember that most of these people will have zero or limited scientific background, and won't share the sense of satisfaction we have when those perfect needle-like crystals come out of solution; they won't easily get where we're coming from.

Anyone going down this route would need to really make it count, and I'm talking about building a solid case, with examples of home innovation (wind-up radio anyone?), and taking it to an in-person meeting with the MP, as so much more can be communicated - and it's not as easy to ignore someone face-to-face as it is a letter!

Recent case in point is the garage inventor Peter Dearman, in the news last week, who's scaling up his liquified air power storage invention. This sort of innovation becomes less and less feasible the more access to industrial materials becomes restricted from all but big business. Here's a thought - perhaps we could get this guy on-side to speak for us, now that he's got some attention? He probably shares our mindset...

Back to talking to the MP: appealing to common grounds of non-related interests could help. Besides the innovative argument, one could reduce our hobby to the enjoyment had when something is crafted from raw materials. Say you find out that your MP likes dressmaking, for example - then draw analogies to the stitching together of cloth to create something beautiful. Then ask them what they'd do if they had to grow their own cotton, dye it and weave it into cloth before they could even begin their project! These guys live for that kind of talk.

Just remember that they are born, raised and trained to debate. And fob you off; they are probably more worried about the 300 angry pensioners who wrote to him about postage stamps going up a few pence, and thousands of angry motorists who can't afford to fuel their cars, than the 1 guy who wants to be able to freely purchase 'dangerous materials' for fun.

Please understand, I do not wish to detract from this suggestion in any way - it could be a great move. I've tried to make some positive recommendations for those who would take it up, and I have the highest respect for anyone with the stones to do so. Here's my personal 'but': I will openly admit that after hiding my activities for so long, the thought of 'coming out' does scare me. Perhaps I'm overly paranoid. Or perhaps if my lab looked a bit more professional, with some novel research then I could invite the chap round, point out some of the work that I'm doing that has real-world potential. Right now, it's a tip, and my work focuses on finding routes to things that are difficult to buy. Ironic, eh?

Quote: Originally posted by hissingnoise  
I'd urge caution ─ Teresa May would like nothing more than being able to compile lists of 'malcontents' . . .


Oh, and hissingnoise made my personal point far more concisely ;)

I think those fitting into the too-old/young-to-be-a-threat would be safer (relatively speaking) in doing this...




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Fusionfire
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[*] posted on 10-10-2012 at 13:38


I asked my friend for more details and he forwarded me this email from LP Chemicals:

"Unfortunately we now only supply chemicals to UK registered companies at their works address. We no longer supply hazardous chemicals to individuals, or to businesses at a residential address. This is standard working practice within our industry and follows advice from the Home Office. We will, therefore, not be able to supply your order on this occasion."

So it seems that not only is this LP Chemicals' policy, it is now industry-wide following "advice" from the Home Office. If we do not challenge this now, home science will die out and there will be no one left to challenge this.

Guys please join me in fighting for our freedom to conduct home science without prejudice or presumption of guilt.

There is no law that specifically prohibits home science or gives the Home Office the power to force laboratory suppliers to stop selling to anyone but big companies. It is the Home Office who have overstepped the mark here, not us!

[Edited on 10-10-2012 by Fusionfire]
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watson.fawkes
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[*] posted on 10-10-2012 at 14:25


Quote: Originally posted by Fusionfire  
So it seems that not only is this LP Chemicals' policy, it is now industry-wide following "advice" from the Home Office.
There's a document here, if it's industry-wide. Find it. Publish it. Anonymously if necessary.
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Dave Angel
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cool.gif posted on 10-10-2012 at 14:36


Quote: Originally posted by watson.fawkes  
There's a document here, if it's industry-wide. Find it. Publish it. Anonymously if necessary.


Being a government document, the UK's Freedom of Information Act should bring it and any similar documents into the open. They cannot deny such a request, though one may need to submit it under a legitimate name and address...




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Fusionfire
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[*] posted on 10-10-2012 at 15:05


Do we need to know the name of the government document to ask for it under the FOIA?

Can the government deny the document exists, or what if the advice was given verbally in meetings?
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hissingnoise
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[*] posted on 10-10-2012 at 15:10


From LP Chem..
Quote:

Clicking on the 'Submit Order' button will send us your order

Please double-check that all your details are correct before you submit your order.
A confirmation of your order will be sent to the e-mail address provided above. Please be familiar with our Conditions of sale before placing your order.

Having gone through the motions out of curiosity ─ clicking Conditions of sale gave a "page not found"!

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Fusionfire
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[*] posted on 10-10-2012 at 15:46


This "industry wide" change must have been implemented fairly recently. Olympics maybe?

I've been ordering chemicals without fuss until I heard of this. Some suppliers have never done business with the small guys (like Fisher IIRC) but it is sad to see all of them not doing business now.
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[*] posted on 10-10-2012 at 18:50


Quote: Originally posted by Dave Angel  
UK's Freedom of Information Act should bring it and any similar documents into the open.
It's likely to be out earlier if someone out there can sweet-talk it out of one of the companies. That'll take some charm and some way of assuring them that they won't be implicated in a leak.
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tetrahedron
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[*] posted on 11-10-2012 at 01:40


there's a so-called "EU voluntary monitoring list" of non-controlled precursors given only to "trustworthy operators":

Quote:
- EU Guidelines on drug precursors' control for operators In order to facilitate the partnership and co-operation between the competent authorities and operators, the "EU Guidelines on Drug Precursors Control for Operators" have been agreed in 2006. These guidelines provide a set of practical recommendations (e.g. risk indicators for identification of suspicious transactions) and lists of scheduled substances and non-scheduled substances (i.e. the “EU voluntary monitoring list”-) aimed at helping the economic operators to fulfil their obligations in close cooperation with authorities. Given that these Guidelines contain sensitive information, they are disseminated directly by Member States' competent authorities only to trustworthy operators.

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:...

this university publishes such a list, although i doubt it is complete.

my guess is the Home Office provided chemical suppliers with such a list and "suggested" to avoid business with private individuals altogether. perhaps any of you is aware of a list of monitored pyrotechnic precursors as well?
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Dave Angel
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[*] posted on 11-10-2012 at 09:42


Quote: Originally posted by watson.fawkes  
Quote: Originally posted by Dave Angel  
UK's Freedom of Information Act should bring it and any similar documents into the open.
It's likely to be out earlier if someone out there can sweet-talk it out of one of the companies. That'll take some charm and some way of assuring them that they won't be implicated in a leak.


A multi-pronged strategy then... If LP chemicals are talkative, perhaps they will forward it on. Indeed, a good old bit of social engineering, charm and influencing skills could get the document...
Anyone got a background in sales & marketing? ;)

I've scoured the Home Office website and found only the category 1,2,3 guidelines for precursors - nothing that indicates limit of sales to individuals. Additionally, I've been looking into FOIA requests - they ask for your real name and a contact address but accept email addresses, so not sure how they can question or suspect a false ID.

Quote: Originally posted by Fusionfire  
Do we need to know the name of the government document to ask for it under the FOIA?

You only need to point them in the right direction and aim it at the right body i.e., the Home Office. Getting the wording broad enough to get what we want, yet not so broad that they reject or delay due to vagueness will be important. I'll draft a suitably worded request...

Quote: Originally posted by Fusionfire  
Can the government deny the document exists, or what if the advice was given verbally in meetings?

Given how it's industry wide, I doubt it'll have been done in minutes, and even so, the representative would have had a presentation or prompting notes. And I honestly don't think they'd cover up something like this - the legal ramifications are just not worth it for such a widely distributed document. If there's an exceptional reason they can't answer a request then they have to, under law, explain why. I think it's worth putting the request in, as it would be great to have it from the horse's mouth, as it were. We'll have a response in 20 working days, one way or the other.

Edit - Here we are:
Quote:
Dear Sir/Madam,

It has come to my attention that guidance and/or instruction has been issued by the Home Office to businesses trading in laboratory chemicals and apparatus, that such materials should not be provided for sale to private individuals.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, I respectfully request that any guidance, advice and/or instruction of the aforementioned kind issued by the Home Office to the industry in question is disclosed.

I would like to receive electronic copies of documents where possible.

Yours faithfully,

Joe Bloggs


Comments?

[Edited on 11/10/2012 by Dave Angel]




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[*] posted on 12-10-2012 at 00:50


Quote: Originally posted by Dave Angel  

Anyone going down this route would need to really make it count, and I'm talking about building a solid case, with examples of home innovation (wind-up radio anyone?), and taking it to an in-person meeting with the MP, as so much more can be communicated - and it's not as easy to ignore someone face-to-face as it is a letter!

Recent case in point is the garage inventor Peter Dearman, in the news last week, who's scaling up his liquified air power storage invention. This sort of innovation becomes less and less feasible the more access to industrial materials becomes restricted from all but big business. Here's a thought - perhaps we could get this guy on-side to speak for us, now that he's got some attention? He probably shares our mindset...
.


Examples such as Perkin and the creation of the UK dye industry, Dunlop and vulcanizing rubber on his stove, Charles Martin Hall and the smelting of Aluminium,

Any chance for a favourable word from such ne'er-do-wells as Harry Kroto, or Oliver Sacks?
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Dave Angel
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[*] posted on 16-10-2012 at 11:11


I hate to cross-post but this is relevant to two current threads, the other being here.

A FOIA request similar to the one drafted above has been filed with the Home Office. We should have a response early November.

Follow it here: www_whatdotheyknow.com/request/restriction_of_sales_of_chemical
(hyperlink deliberately broken so it doesn't trace back to the forum)

Quote: Originally posted by malcolmf  
Examples such as Perkin and the creation of the UK dye industry, Dunlop and vulcanizing rubber on his stove, Charles Martin Hall and the smelting of Aluminium,

Any chance for a favourable word from such ne'er-do-wells as Harry Kroto, or Oliver Sacks?

Exactly - there are plenty of everyday examples of 'kitchen stove' discoveries / inventions. Turning the weight of public opinion around is the tricky part, and that generally has to come from the top if the herd is to follow.




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[*] posted on 16-10-2012 at 14:53


Thank you Dave for being pro-active about this; hats off to you.

Me and my friend have also written to our MPs about this and it sounds like they are taking it up. What's there not to take up? The government is saying they are all for new enterprise and here is the ham-fisted Home Office not singing from the same hymn sheet, trying to save themselves work by shutting down all business transactions between lab suppliers and very small enterprises.

I am thinking about forwarding the call recording to LP Chemicals/Euro Lab Supply's Head Office...

For the other Brits here chewing their fingernails hoping someone else will do the work, shame on you! Here is a poem for you:

Quote:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
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Dave Angel
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[*] posted on 17-10-2012 at 15:37


I'd be inclined to keep your recording low profile - there's not much to gain from sending it to the head office, as they are highly unlikely to apologise; we are like the buzzing of a gnat to them. It could, however, tarnish your image as you progress matters with the MPs, should LP Chemicals take objection to the secret recording and look to legal action...

The progress with the MPs sounds promising, but don't be fobbed off by the MPs initial positive words - they're prgrammed to say nice things. Keep chasing them up until you become annoying enough that they have to deal with you. You always could turn up at their constituency office and book an appointment for a meet; I maintain face-to-face is better, so long as you are prepared.

And kudos to you for taking action too. I truly hope that this is the beginning of a 'ground swell' for amateur chemists in the UK and beyond.




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[*] posted on 22-11-2012 at 04:41


Response to a friend's Freedom of Information Act request on what advice the Home Office gives to laboratory suppliers:

They basically directed my friend to:
http://www.nactso.gov.uk/hazardous-materials#know-your-custo...

Is there any way to ask if this is all the advice the HO gives to chemical suppliers? It strikes me as odd that from this 2 page guidance document, a blanket restriction on laboratory supplies to individuals and businesses in residential premises would come forth.
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[*] posted on 22-11-2012 at 04:50


the HO might want to be careful with how many things they try to shove under the rug. acquisition of certain chemicals (such being i imagine most here in the UK might be able to list) will become a criminal enterprise, more corruption and bribery, and more interception of carriers, thefts from warehouses and docks.

but having said all that, in australia and the usa they already heavily monitor if not restrict access to even really quite bland things like toluene and sodium hydroxide.
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thumbdown.gif posted on 22-11-2012 at 05:21


Quote: Originally posted by Dave Angel  
A FOIA request similar to the one drafted above has been filed with the Home Office. We should have a response early November.

Follow it here: www_whatdotheyknow.com/request/restriction_of_sales_of_chemical

there's still no response, this is taking longer than advertised..

Quote: Originally posted by Fusionfire  
They basically directed my friend to:
http://www.nactso.gov.uk/hazardous-materials#know-your-custo...

not much information apart from the 'know your customer' principle. can anyone find the UK code of conduct they're talking about?

some related finds:

CBA Outlook (Nov 09)
Quote:
Scope of the CBA/CIA Code of Conduct
Chemical Weapons and their precursors (R)
Drug precursors (R + V)
Prior Informed Consent (R)
Military Export licensing (R)
Environmental embargoes (R)
Explosive precursors (V)
(R) = Regulatory (V) = Voluntary
The Code is available from the Members’ section of the CBA
website: www.chemical.org.uk
Launching the latest revision of the Code in August this
year, CBA’s Director, Peter Newport said,
“As a responsible industry, we share a common goal, through Responsible Care,
to go beyond legal minimum requirements to make sure that chemicals are
distributed properly and used safely. Customer vetting procedures and vigilance
controls, included in the latest edition of the joint code of conduct, go beyond
legal minimum requirements. Our member companies will only sell chemicals to
customers that have been vetted.”


UN code of conduct (likely the mould for the UK code)

VOLUNTARY CODE OF PRACTICE FOR THE SECURITY OF DANGEROUS GOODS BY ROAD
Quote:
Employers should also brief their drivers about the action to be taken in the event of a criminal attack.

i CBA to dig any deeper, but it does seem like things are moving toward the scenario envisioned by l0k1.

[Edited on 22-11-2012 by tetrahedron]
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