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Introduction

The Campaign believes that people should not be penalised for disclosing information about malpractice where the disclosure is in the public interest.

In July 1998 the Public Interest Disclosure Act, introduced as a Private Members Bill by Richard Shepherd MP with support from the Campaign, Public Concern at Work and the government, successfully completed its passage on to the statute book. The Act came into force in July 1999 and has been sucessfully used on many occasions to protect whistleblowers from reprisals and also to secure compensation for those victimised for revealing serious wrongdoing.

More information about the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and how it can be used can be found on the website of Public Concern At Work, or by contacting them at Suite 306, 16 Baldwins Gardens, London EC1N 7RJ, Tel 020-7404 6609.

While the Act did not create a public interest defence to prosecutions under the Official Secrets Acts, it does apply to disciplinary action for such disclosures. The Campaign continues to support efforts to reform the Official Secrets Act. More information about the Campaign's previous attempts to introduce legal protection for those disclosing information in the public interest can be found below.

 

 
arrow The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998
  Full text of the Act from the Stationery Office website. An annotated copy of the Act is available on the Public Concern at Work website.
  
arrow Department of Trade & Industry Guide to the Act
  This Government guide to the Act includes a list of the prescribed regulators to whom the Act encourages people to turn when seeking to make a protected disclosure.
  
  
Older material
  
 

Earlier attempts at changing the law

The passing of the Public Interest Disclosure Act was the result of many years campaigning. Earlier attempts at reform included The Protection of Official Information Bill, introduced by Richard Shepherd MP in 1988, and drafted by the Campaign. This would have replaced section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 with a narrower measure which included a public interest defence. It proposed that a civil servant would not be guilty of an offence under the Act for disclosing information relating to crime, fraud or misconduct if he or she could show that the disclosure was in the public interest and that he or she had first drawn the matter to the attention of the appropriate authorities without effect.

The bill was defeated after the government imposed a three line whip against it at second reading. The government later introduced the Official Secrets Act 1989, which repealed section 2 of the 1911 Act, but rejected all efforts to insert a public interest defence.

The Right to Know Bill, introduced by Mark Fisher MP in 1993, and also drafted by the Campaign, again proposed a public interest defence to Official Secrets Act charges and a similar defence for employees facing disciplinary action for disclosing information about their employer's malpractice. The bill was talked out.

With the whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work the Campaign drafted the Whistleblower Protection Bill, introduced as a ten-minute rule bill by Tony Wright MP early in 1995. A revised version, the Public Interest Disclosure Bill, was introduced by Don Touhig MP at the end of 1995. The bill completed its committee stage in the Commons before being talked out by the government in 1996. In March 1996, the then Leader of the Opposition, Tony Blair MP, committed the next Labour government to legislating to protect whistleblowers. Shortly after Labour won the 1997 general election, Richard Shepherd MP was selected in the Private Members Ballot and chose to introduce the Public Interest Disclosure Bill which received Royal Assent in July 1998.

  
arrow Briefing pack - The Public Interest Disclosure Bill
  This briefing pack includes the text of the Bill as amended during its Commons committee stage, and supporting materials. Published in 1997-8.
  
arrow Press release launching the 1995 Don Touhig MP Public Interest Disclosure Bill
  Contains statements of support from MPs of all parties, and whistleblowing examples.
  
arrow Public and Private Concerns
  Article on whistleblowing from the February 1995 issue of Index on Censorship.
  
arrow Official Secrets Reform: Briefing
  A briefing on the Official Secrets Bill, which after its passage through the Commons became the Official Secrets Act 1989. Includes a section on public interest disclosures. Published December 1988.
  

 

 

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