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A furious senior Cabinet Minister has told the body responsible for funding Britain’s scientific research that she is “outraged” it has appointed Hamas terrorist sympathisers to key positions.
Michelle Donelan, the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, has written to the head of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) giving her 24 hours to explain why Hamas sympathisers have been appointed to senior positions.
The senior minister has also raised concerns more widely over how UKRI under its chief executive Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, is adding extra burdens on getting research funding by insisting on extra demands to meet equality standards.
The intervention comes amid growing concerns over support for Hamas on Britain’s streets in the aftermath of the October 7 attack by the terrorist group killing more than 1,400 Israeli citizens including bringing children to death, kidnapping 200 others and injuring hundreds more.
In a scathing letter which Ms Donelan posted on social media, she said that the actions of UKRI in failing to check on Hamas sympathies with people in key roles were “unacceptable”.
The row centres over appointments to UKRI’s advisory group on equality, diversity and inclusion.
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The minister said: “I am outraged by the post on X by Professor Kate Sang, who stated that the UK’s crackdown on Hamas support in the UK was ‘disturbing’.
“Hamas is a proscribed terrorist organisation. It is completely unacceptable for anyone to be expressing sympathy or support for them.
“I am staggered that this has occurred full stop, let alone that I have to write to you about it.”
She went on: “I was shocked to see multiple Tweets by other members of the group, including the amplification by Dr Kamna Patel, University College London, of a post on X that condemns violence on both sides but makes reference to Israel’s ‘genocide and apartheid.'”
Ms Donelan added: “The political impartiality of our scientific funding system is vital. For this group, there has clearly been a serious failure to be mindful of the need for both real and perceived impartiality.”
She told Dame Ottoline that the group should “be closed down” and that UKRI “should undertake an urgent investigation into how this happened.”
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UKRI has been given until the end of the working day on Monday to send a full reply on how it plans to resolve the situation and its next steps.
The minister noted that this must include “why no due diligence checks on members of the group were made on the group after October 7 (given that they were appointed in July) ahead of the announcement on October 26.”
In a warning about the way UKRI is being run, she said: “This serious issue raises wider questions about UKRI’s approach to equality, diversity and inclusion.”
She added: “I am concerned that in recent years UKRI has been going beyond the requirements of equality law in ways which add burden and bureaucracy to funding requirements, with little evidence this materially advances equality of opportunity or eliminates discrimination.”
UKRI responded on Twitter this evening with a brief statement from Dame Ottoline.
She said: “We are deeply concerned to have discovered these comments. We are conducting an immediate investigation.”
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