New group aims to provide stronger protection for whistleblowers

A new parliamentary group has been established with the aim of campaigning to provide stronger protection for British whistleblowers.

Andrew Patrick

The formation of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Whistleblowing has been welcomed by Andrew Patrick, whose own whistleblowing claim was resolved by the US government.

Mr Patrick said: “The Americans have a very different system to the UK. UK whistleblowers, in general, seem to be penalised for expressing information that should be important to the public.

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“But the Americans actually give a payment, as part of the award the Government receives back, to the whistleblower.”

In the UK, the coalition Government rejected the idea of paying whistleblowers in 2014. Instead, the Financial Conduct Authority brought in a number of rules to support whistleblowers.

As part of these rules, financial firms are required to appoint a senior manager to act as a “whistleblowers’ ” champion.

Mr Patrick said: “We are all obligated to do the right thing and to report something that is wrong when we see it.

“Whistleblowers should be treated fairly and respectfully. I know institutions are bringing in guardians who are meant to protect whistleblowers.

“I don’t believe those systems of guardianship are working. Government intervention at the highest level to protect whistleblowers and payments of a reward system would help.

“You should penalise anybody who attempts to go after a whistleblower.”

Mary Inman, a partner at law firm Constantine Cannon, who has represented Mr Patrick, said lessons could be learned from the effectiveness of the US system.

She said: “In order for whistleblowers to feel safe and be encouraged they need protection from retaliation.

“They also need a safety net and the American reward system is a safety net.”

She added: “Often whistleblowers are black-listed and may never work again. Those programmes help whistleblowers get over the natural reluctance to undertake the risks that come along with doing the right thing.”

Ms Inman said Constantine Cannon was a supporter of the new All Party Parliamentary Group on Whistleblowing, which was established on July 10.

She added: “I’m delighted that this Parliamentary group is happening. What is so exciting about this is that it takes the whistleblower issue and it puts it on a Government-wide stage. Currently, whistleblowing issues are covered by the APPG for banking.”

Ms Inman believes there is a case for establishing an office of the whistleblower in the UK “where whistleblowers can come forward, regardless of agency, and know that there’s a group that has the authority to regulate the regulators”.

Ms Inman added: “The economic benefits would be extraordinary. The American experience has helped to expose financial frauds to the levels of multiple billions of dollars that we would not have known about otherwise.”

She added: “Law enforcement will tell you that whistleblowing programmes are their number one enforcement tool.

“If you are a busy government prosecutor and you have your desk covered in cases, you are always going to take the whistleblower case first, because they are giving you a road map to the fraud.

“You can investigate from the outside all day long.

“But all it takes is one well-placed insider, appropriately incentivised, to bring the information to light... and return ill-gotten gains.”

The Financial Conduct Authority has conducted a detailed review of its whistleblowing procedures and increased the resources dedicated to the area.

The FCA has seen an increase in the number of reports it receives; for example, there were 1,340 whistleblowing disclosures recorded for financial year 2014/15 against 1040 in 2013/14. In the financial year 2007/08 the then Financial Services Authority received only 138.

The new All Party Parliamentary Group on whistleblowing expects to hold its first meeting after the summer recess.