CONSULTATION RESPONSES AND POLICY BRIEFINGS
We responded to the Health and Social Care Committee’s inquiry into the Department of Health’s white paper “Integration and Innovation: working together to improve health and social care”.
The white paper proposed a new Health Service Safety Investigations Body to investigate serious incidents of patient safety. We argued that any such body needs to be a prescribed person and should follow the principles in our Better Regulators Guide.
We responded to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s inquiry on “Propriety of governance in light of Greensill”.
We argued that whistleblowing can help to identify conflicts of interest within the civil service and government, and argued for changes to be made to the Ministerial Code and Civil Service Commission to better protect whistleblowers.
We responded to the Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry on “Initial lessons from the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic”.
We informed the Committee about the experiences of our Advice Line callers raising concerns about furlough fraud and public health risks. We made the case for legal standards on employers so that concerns are investigated and whistleblowers are not ignored, as well as explaining how regulators could better respond to whistleblowers during a public emergency.
We responded to the UK Product Safety Review.
We argued that mandatory standards on employers and regulators would better protect the public interest by ensuring that concerns about product safety are properly handled. We also recommended ways in which the Office for Product Safety & Standards could change its regulatory activities to improve transparency and confidence.
We responded to the BEIS Department’s consultation on “Restoring trust in audit and corporate governance”.
We argued that a new regulator – The Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority (ARGA) – should be a prescribed person under whistleblowing law. We also argued that ARGA should have powers to set and enforce whistleblowing standards amongst employers.
We responded to The Law Commission’s consultation for its 14th Programme of Law Reform.
We argued that The Law Commission should consider whistleblowing law as one of its next projects for review because UK whistleblowing law is nearly 25 years old and the UK is falling behind internationally. There are many groups of people unprotected by the current law and changes need to be made to improve access to justice.
Protect and the Whistleblowing International Network (WIN) responded to The Home Office’s consultation on “Legislation to counter state threats”.
We argued that the Official Secrets Act 1989 needs to be reformed to include a public interest defence for whistleblowers. We also argued in favour of a Statutory Commissioner to receive whistleblowing concerns, and highlighted the importance of keeping pace with international developments.
We argued that if corporate bodies were to have a defence to criminal liability then evidence of strong whistleblowing arrangements should form a part of that defence. We also argued that regulators should have more powers to impose civil penalties on employers who maltreat whistleblowers rather than pursuing criminal prosecutions.
We produced a briefing laying out the arguments for why there needs to be a public interest defence added to the Official Secrets Act 1989, and the dangers of the proposed reforms from the Home Office that is danger of making whistleblowing seen legally as an act of espionage.
Protect responded to this call for evidence, highlighting the importance of whistleblowing in the environmental sector, the lack of awareness and reporting, and suggesting that whistleblowing should form part of any consideration as to how culture and behaviour can be changed in the sector.
We have written a briefing outlining key whistleblowing issues connected to the new Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill, including standards on regulators and standards on employers when dealing with concerns raised by whistleblowers.
We have also proposed amendments to the Bill following the suggestions in our briefing around regulators, a Commissioner to Protect Whistleblowers, and an anti-SLAPP provision.
On March 3, amendments were put down for the Secretary of State to establish a Commission for the Protection of Whistleblowers. Please see the above for our briefing on the amendment which was sent to Members of Parliament ahead of the debate on Monday.
On 7 March, we sent this briefing to some members of the House of Lords with an additional explanation on the SLAPP amendments.
Protect has responded to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation with focus on questions relating to Article 10, Freedom of Expression. Protect wants to ensure that the government considers the rights of whistleblowers and those who speak out in the public interest when considering reform and strengthening of this fundamental right. Protect also contributed to the Employment Lawyers Association’s working party response.
Protect has responded to the Ministry of Justice’s emergency call for evidence on Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs). In our own response, we have focused on the experience and risk of whistleblowers facing SLAPPs. We are also a join signatory to the Anti-SLAPP Coalition’s response.
You can find our response here.
Protect has responded to the Solicitor Regulation Authority’s consultation on health and wellbeing rule changes. The proposals by the SRA include a duty not to bully, harass or discriminate unfairly against colleagues, and for staff to challenge behaviour that does not meet this standard. We have proposed that this duty should also make it clear that negative treatment of whistleblowers or those who “challenge” conduct should not be permitted. We have also asked that the SRA put standards both internally – and on the firms that they regulate – to ensure that there are safe mechanisms in place for people to “challenge” such behaviour, i.e. raise concerns through whistleblowing.
You can find our response here.
Protect is concerned about the new National Security Bill introduced by the Home Office in May 2022.
We are particularly concerned about a possible impact on the ability of whistleblowers to raise corruption issues if, in doing so, their concern exposes a trade secret. We are also concerned that the text of the Bill is too widely drawn without any kind of public interest defence for whistleblowers (despite previous recommendations from the Law Commission). More detail is set out in our briefing here.
Protect has responded to the call for evidence from Margaret Beels, the Director of Labour Market Enforcement. We have argued that any consideration on how to improve compliance and enforcement must consider how to improve whistleblowing processes to ensure that workers are encouraged to speak up and raise their concerns.
You can read our full response here.
Protect is delighted that Kevan Jones MP and others have recently suggested an amendment to the new National Security Bill (NSB 2022) and Official Secrets Act (OSA 1989) to include a Public Interest Defence.
More detail is set out in our briefing here.
There is a clear need to reform the current whistleblowing framework, and there is much to support in the proposal to introduce an Office of the Whistleblower. However, we are concerned by the proposal at Clause 26, to repeal the current whistleblowing protection – the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA). This would remove significant employment law rights for whistleblowers.
Read our full briefing, here