Protect is disappointed that the Government’s new legislative program fails to address the weaknesses in whistleblowing protection with the absence of an Employment Bill. The UK has fallen behind international best practice and it is time to “level up” legal protections for whistleblowers.
However, we welcome the introduction of the second Economic Crime Bill as an opportunity to ensure whistleblowing is part of the strategy to enforce laws against corruption, illicit financing and attempts to dodge sanctions on Russia.
Along with many journalists, NGOs and groups representing whistleblowers, we are concerned that the proposed bill on the security services should not reduce press or whistleblower freedoms. The Law Commission agrees with us that there should be a public interest defence to the Official Secrets Act. Reform in this area should not increase the risk of prosecutions to whistleblowers.
We will monitor carefully the proposed deregulation bill and new Bill of Rights, to ensure that these bills do not weaken safeguards around employment rights or human rights such as Freedom of Expression. Being able to speak freely is key for whistleblowers to raise the alarm about wrongdoing and abuse of power.
The Government promised to review whistleblowing law in 2019. There is a growing interest in Parliament on all sides of the house to reform the law in this area in recognition that whistleblowers play a vital role in identifying corruption, preventing harm and holding organisations and governments to account.