Government mulls whistleblower laws that could fine companies millions for attempted cover-up

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Whistleblower legislation that could impose multimillion-pound fines on businesses for attempted cover-ups is being considered by the government, The Telegraph has learned.

A bill, which will be debated by MPs this week, would also ban non-disclosure agreements and set up a new court where whistleblower cases will be heard.

He is backed by several Tory MPs and at least two former ministers, including Maria Miller and John Penrose, the government’s anti-corruption czar and chairman of the Tory Policy Forum.

The Ten Minute Rule Bill will be proposed by MP Mary Robinson on Tuesday and, if approved, would protect whistleblowers from criminal or civil action against them.

This would see people compensated for any losses suffered – such as being fired from their jobs – as a result of their whistleblowing.

Installation of a new regulator

A new regulator, called the Whistleblower Office, would be set up to investigate protected disclosures, according to a proposal to be voted on by MPs this week.

The regulator would set minimum standards for workplace whistleblower policies, monitor and enforce those standards, and prosecute whistleblower crimes.

It would also create new civil penalties – with a maximum fine set at 10% of a company’s turnover up to £18million – for those who fail to comply with an order from the Office of the Pitcher. alert, according to a copy of the document. seen by The Telegraph.

A new criminal offense of subjecting a whistleblower to harm is included in the bill, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 18 months.

The bill also received cross-party support, including Dame Margaret Hodge, the veteran Labor MP and Dr Lisa Cameron of the SNP.

If passed, it would be the first major change to whistleblower legislation in more than two decades, since the Public Interest Disclosure Act of 1998.

Existing legislation

Ms Robinson, the Conservative MP for Cheadle who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Whistleblowing Group, said she had had numerous meetings over the past year to discuss the issue with Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and one of his ministers, Paul Scully.

She said the problem with existing legislation is that whistleblowers often end up in employment tribunals which do not deal with actual allegations of wrongdoing, but instead focus on whether the worker has been unfairly treated as a result of their revelations.

The current whistleblower regime allows workers to sue their organization in the labor court if they are fired or treated unfairly at work because they have made a “protected disclosure” of wrongdoing.

These protections were put in place in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA), but Ms Robinson said these laws are now ‘stopping people from speaking out’ as they are deterred by the cost and the complexity of the system.

Ms Robinson added: ‘This bill will bring balance and shift the responsibility of keeping people safe with those organizations who can no longer hide behind a broken system.’

A Whitehall source said the government was “completely behind” whistleblower protection, adding that it was “currently reviewing our position” on the bill.

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