Press release 17th Nov 2023

Employment tribunal ruling could make Parliament a no-go zone for civil service whistleblowers

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An employment tribunal has decided that a former civil servant must remove key parts of her evidence in a whistleblowing case about the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Josie Stewart brought her case to the tribunal after being dismissed for giving an anonymous interview to the BBC in December 2021.

In an interim ruling the tribunal ruled late yesterday that it would allow some of the contested elements of Ms Stewart’s testimony, but other sections must be removed because they would contravene parliamentary privilege.

Duncan Hames, Director of Policy at Transparency International UK said:

"This ruling critically undermines the functioning of the Public Interest Disclosure Act and with it the ability of civil servants to bring matters to the attention of MPs in the public interest - without losing the ability to defend their own employment rights.

"MPs will be shocked to learn that a privilege supposed to protect their independence when scrutinising government, is being applied in a manner which will now deter civil servants from disclosing information in the public interest to Parliament.

"In light of this judgement, ministers should now explain to MPs how they intend to prevent Parliament becoming a no-go zone for whistleblowers.”

Daniel Bruce, Chief Executive, Transparency International UK added:

“Whistleblowing plays a critical role in maintaining transparency and accountability in our government and public institutions. It is vital to expose and prevent corruption and to hold power to account.

“Our country’s civil service has been the envy of the world, but it needs safeguards to protect its independence and ensure civil servants are free to speak truth to power.”

“Public institutions and private companies must provide safe and effective mechanisms to receive and address whistleblower reports, protecting any whistleblower from retaliation.