Whistleblower bill a step nearer lawbook

March 20, 1998

The Public Interest Disclosure Bill, which offers legal protection for people who blow the whistle on fraud, crime and malpractice at work, moved closer to the statute books last week as it reached its second reading in the House of Commons, writes Phil Baty.

The sponsor of the Private Members' Bill, Tory MP Richard Shepherd, said in the bill's committee stage debate last week that "the clearest illustration of the need for the bill" could be found in a case at Portsmouth University, among other "major disasters and scandals of the past decade".

In 1995-96, Mr Shepherd said: "Bonnie Tall had been forced out as secretary to the vice-chancellor at the University of Portsmouth after she had refused to turn a blind eye to his sophisticated and proven fiddling of public money."

Mrs Tall won a claim for unfair dismissal but has since been out of work, while the vice-chancellor at the time, Neil Merritt, left with a golden handshake, Mr Shepherd said. "Her experience was hardly likely to encourage others in her situation to act properly when they see public money being misused." He hopes the bill will make it safe for people to sound the alarm.

The bill has the backing of the government, the Institute of Directors and the Confederation of British Industry.

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