Backbench Business - Whistleblowingbackbench Business

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:26 pm on 3rd July 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb Chair, Science and Technology Committee (Commons) 4:26 pm, 3rd July 2019

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. We need effective legislation to redress that imbalance of power.

All the cases I have outlined highlight the value and importance of enabling people to expose wrongdoing. Effective protection for brave people who decide to speak out is first of all vital for that individual—they should be celebrated, not denigrated—but it also benefits us all if we give them protection. As Mr Mitchell said earlier, this is actually an issue of good governance. It is about keeping organisations honest; protecting businesses from fraud, crime and other wrongdoing; and maintaining the highest possible standards. Good protection for those who speak out acts as a deterrent against bad behaviour; closed, secret cultures, which cover up wrongdoing and destroy those who try to speak up, deliver poor public services or cheat customers in the private sector, particularly in financial services, or lead to the toleration of bullying, sexual harassment and so on. So often, non-disclosure agreements are the final step that keeps the wrongdoing secret, slamming shut the door on proper scrutiny. Things need to change.

The question is: does the current law work? Palpably, from the examples I have given, it is clear that it does not. First, it leaves out key groups—not only foster carers—that simply are not covered by the legislation. It leaves out job applicants, volunteers and priests. Just think about the abuse of children by so many priests over the past few decades. Had priests been given the protection to speak out, perhaps we would have prevented some of that dreadful abuse. The legislation leaves out non-executive directors and trustees. It leaves out relatives and friends of the whistleblower when they are victimised because of what the whistleblower has done. It leaves out someone who is victimised by being presumed to be a whistleblower—if a company thinks that someone has spoken out, even if they have not, and does something like dismissing them, that person has no rights under the legislation because they are not actually the whistleblower. That is a ludicrous situation.