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Fines will not create a new whistleblowing culture in central government

Protect Head of Policy, Andrew Pepper-Parsons, responds to reports that the Metropolitan Police will issue 20 fines to government officials over illegal parties held during lockdown. 

If press reports are correct and 20 fixed penalties are due to be issued for breaches to lockdown laws at 10 Downing Street and Whitehall, then the scale of law breaking is shocking. We rightly expect our political leaders to follow the laws they pass.  

This further underlines Sue Gray’s conclusion in her report that there were “failures of leadership and judgement” from senior figures in Number 10 Downing Street around the decision to hold the parties. 

We also remind the Government of a further conclusion from Sue Gray’s report around the whistleblowing culture and part it played in the failure of leadership within Number 10: “Some staff wanted to raise concerns about behaviours they witnessed at work but at times felt unable to do so. No member of staff should feel unable to report or challenge poor conduct where they witness it. There should be easier ways for staff to raise such concerns informally, outside of the line management chain”  

The alarming thing is how familiar the conclusions sound: Nigel Boardman concluded that the Greensill lobbying scandal ‘might have been mitigated if there had been a robust and trusted whistleblowing process’ in his report in July 2021. 

The fines issued today should not be the end of the matter. It should be used as a catalyst to improve the whistleblowing culture across central Government and protections for whistleblowers more widely. 

You can see Protect’s ideas on reforming whistleblowing in Central Government here.