David Lewis, an employment law expert at Middlesex University and Convenor of the International Whistleblowing Research Network, has written an open letter to Business Secretary Vince Cable accusing the government of bringing in an amendment to the law on whistleblowing “by the back door” and without sufficient consultation. Professor Lewis believes that this will deter employees from making important disclosures about illicit corporate activities.
The Enterprise and regulatory Reform Bill (2012) is currently going through Parliament and critics such as Professor Lewis are concerned that the ‘Miscellaneous’ heading in Section 14 contains a sentence that might deter whistleblowers.
The sentence infers that only whistleblowers who make a disclosure “in the public interest” would be protected. At the moment, the law does not apply a discrete public interest test to whistleblower disclosures.
In his letter to Dr Cable, Professor Lewis asks the Minister to “re-consider the value of this proposed amendment”, saying: “These provisions have not been the subject of official review since they came into force in 1999 and there appears to have been no consultation about the proposed introduction of a general public interest test in all cases.”
Professor Lewis expresses concern that the proposed change would damage the UK’s reputation as a model student in whistleblowing legislation and would subject all disclosures to a public interest test, potentially discouraging people from speaking out against wrongdoing.
“In my opinion, the current economic crisis underlines how important it is to have tip-offs about improprieties,” Professor Lewis wrote.
In response to Professor Lewis’s accusation about the lack of consultation, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) stated that there will be “scrutiny of this measure” in the subsequent Parliamentary process it has to pass through.