Page last updated at 07:17 GMT, Monday, 10 August 2009 08:17 UK

MPs urge whistleblower protection

Houses of Parliament
The Committee calls for clearer whistleblowing procedures

Civil servants should have clearer guidance on voicing concerns about the conduct of government, a report says.

A cross-party committee of MPs suggests leaks within Whitehall could be dealt with more effectively if whistleblowers were better able to raise their fears.

The Commons Public Administration Select Committee said leaks damage trust in government.

Tony Wright MP said a "culture that encourages proper whistleblowing... is the best safeguard against leaking".

The committee suggested that more should be done to ensure potential whistleblowers know how to raise concerns and have the confidence to come forward.

The report has called for a route to be established, whereby evidence a minister had misled MPs or the public could be reported to Parliament, following a complaint by a civil servant.

It also recommended leaking of information should only be a criminal matter where there was a breach of the Official Secrets Act, or evidence of serious criminal misconduct such as accepting payment.

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The committee's inquiry was launched in the wake of the controversy surrounding the Conservative front-bencher Damian Green and civil servant Chris Galley, who were arrested - but not charged - following a police investigation into leaks from the Home Office.

Mr Wright, chairman of the Commons Public Administration Select Committee, said it was "fundamental to good government that civil servants keep the confidences they are entrusted with".

He added: "However, there is a tension between this basic duty and the public's legitimate interest in having access to information about how government works and ensuring government wrongdoing comes to light.

"It is therefore essential that civil servants know what channels are available to them if they believe there is wrongdoing, or information is being suppressed.

"These channels must be timely, effective and, most importantly, not be seen as career-damaging.

"A culture that encourages proper whistleblowing procedures is the best safeguard against leaking, and we believe the civil service has some way to go to achieve this."



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