Backbench Business - Whistleblowingbackbench Business

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:16 pm on 3rd July 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative, Stirling 5:16 pm, 3rd July 2019

I completely agree with my hon. and gallant Friend. I cannot understand why any organisation would not embrace the feedback someone brings them when it has to do with the types of things whistleblowers raise: why on earth would any business or public sector organisation not want to know when things are not being done right—what is right in terms of the law, what is morally right, and what is right in terms of the values of the organisation? And there absolutely should be a no recriminations policy in any organisation worth its salt. I also absolutely believe that there needs to be a place where whistleblowers can go, a safe harbour where their case will be properly treated and respected and where they will get the necessary level of support, whatever that support might be, so their case can be properly heard.

I think I have made it clear that I strongly believe that no organisation of any repute should be operating in the ways we have heard discussed in this debate by various colleagues. Governments and companies should be confident enough to know when they are wrong, and they should be honest and brave enough to address that. The reaction to whistleblowing should be to say, “Thank you; thank you for speaking up”, and then when the whistleblower’s words and evidence are evaluated organisations should be more than happy; in fact, they should be recognising and themselves rewarding whistleblowers who speak up so that the changes that flow from that will mean they as businesses or public service organisations can become more efficient, effective and ethical in the way they operate.

The APPG will soon publish its findings and recommendations, and we will further consider and promote the case for an independent office for the whistleblower, giving protection to and advocating in the interests of whistleblowers. We shall also be asking for an end to the use of non-disclosure agreements to cover up wrongdoing, criminality and other morally dubious behaviour. That idea must be fully debated and explored, because there are currently far too many abuses of NDAs.

Parliament and Government have a responsibility to set the conditions and the standards; we have to create the culture in our country where people feel confident that they can and should speak up in the public interest. We want whistleblowing recognised as a positive and public-spirited thing to do, and I look forward to the Minister’s reply today, but this is the start of the debate on this issue, not an end, and we must recognise the courage and integrity of people who do the right things for the right reasons, because they are guided in what they are doing by conscience and the public interest.