Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nick Clegg calls for whistleblower protection to be restored

The public interest defence for civil service whistleblowers should be restored, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg told the Institute of Government.

Providing this protection will strengthen the independence of the civil service and would aid officials speaking out on issues in the public interest, as with the dubious legality of the invasion of Iraq.

In his speech Nick Clegg said:

“The Chilcot Inquiry is a powerful reminder of the ambiguity that can surround the role of officials and the ease with which they can be dictated to by politicians.

“Where national security is concerned officials should act with the national interest in mind. But where there is clear need to speak out in the public interest – as with the dubious legality of the war in Iraq – officials must know they can do so free from prosecution.

“The number one responsibility of civil servants must be to the people of Britain, not self serving Ministers. 

“That is why the Liberal Democrats would amend the Official Secrets Act to restore the public interest defence for whistleblowers that was originally removed by the Conservatives.

“If that protection had been in place when the fateful decision was taken to invade Iraq Tony Blair and Gordon Brown might have been more openly challenged by officials who harboured real doubts about the war.

“But without cast iron protection for whistleblowers, it was too easy for this government to bully and cajole the civil service into remaining silent about one of the greatest errors of any government in the post war period.”

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