By Dr Minh Alexander NHS whistleblower and former consultant psychiatrist 24 January 2019
A controversial whistleblowing All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) was established last summer, with reported funding from Constantine Cannon a well-known US bounty hunting law firm.
A subsequent denial about the funding by the APPG’s secretariat, the private company Whistleblowers UK (WBUK), has not been clarified or resolved.
The back ground to the establishment of the above APPG and the ethical questions posed by the US bounty hunting model has been set out previously:
Whistleblowing v Bounty hunting. A new whistleblowing APPG with sponsorship from bounty hunters
There has been much concern that the APPG reportedly accepted funding from Constantine Cannon LLP to operate a secretariat administered by WBUK, as per details published in the August 2018 parliamentary APPG register.
These are the financial details for the whistleblowing APPG that appeared in the parliamentary register in August 2018:
For those unfamiliar with APPGs, they are special interest groups with no official status, but they can influence:
“All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are informal cross-party groups that have no official status within Parliament. They are run by and for Members of the Commons and Lords, though many choose to involve individuals and organisations from outside Parliament in their administration and activities.”
There has been concern that APPGs can be a means of lobbying by private interests:
Are APPGs a ‘dark space’ for covert lobbying? (The Guardian 6 January 2017)
APPGs are required to comply with certain rules, including declaring benefits, financial and in kind, such as of hospitality, gifts, overseas visits.
On 5 November 2018 an unidentified person at the end of the WBUK Twitter account denied that the financial details published in the parliamentary APPG register were correct:
The individual who tweeted the denial did not provide alternative facts.
The office of the parliamentary Registrar of Members’ Financial Interests advised on 6 November 2018 that it would enquire further into the matter.
On 22 November 2018, the office advised that it was still awaiting a formal response from the whistleblowing APPG. It additionally clarified:
“In the meantime I should say that the register entry does not indicate that the secretariat has already been paid by Constantine Cannon LLP; only that this is the payment expected over the year.
I will let you know when I hear anything further.”
I have not heard from parliament since the last communication on 22 November 2018.
On 2 January 2019, an updated register of APPGs was published by parliament.
This showed the same financial details for the whistleblowing APPG as was originally published in August 2018.
I have asked the office of the Registrar of Members’ Financial Interests if there has been any response from the whistleblowing APPG.
I have also written to the chair of WBUK, to ask if he can help shed any light on the facts.
I await a response from both.
Email 23 January 2019 to Tom Lloyd, Chair of Whistleblowers UK:
Accuracy of published details about the whistleblowing APPG
I write to ask if you could clarify the financial arrangements between WBUK and the law firm Constantine Cannon.
The published whistleblowing APPG details that first appeared in August 2018 stated:
“WhistleblowersUK is paid by Constantine Cannon LLP to act as the group’s secretariat
From : 10/07/2018
To : 09/07/2019”
and they indicated that the sum paid was between “£13,501-15,000”.
On 5 November 2018 someone on the WBUK Twitter account tweeted to me that the APPG register details were incorrect: “This entry is incorrect”.
However, the person tweeting on behalf of WBUK did not provide alternative facts.
The latest January 2019 version of the published APPG register still shows the same details for the Whistleblowing APPG as published in August 2018.
Please can you advise if these details are correct.
If they are not correct, please can you advise of the correct details.
Dr Minh Alexander
cc Stephen Kerr MP APPG Chair & registered contact
Norman Lamb MP APPG Vice Chair
Andrew Mitchell MP APPG Vice Chair
Baroness Kramer APPG Co-Chair
Anneliese Dodds MP APPG Vice Chair”
It would seem desirable for a working group about whistleblowing to have straightforward governance.
I do not intend to engage with this APPG given my concerns about the bounty hunting model, which I think works against both the public interest and the welfare of the majority of whistleblowers.
Norman Lamb MP a Vice Chair of the APPG has advocated in parliament for the UK to import US Frank Dodd style bounties.
I doubt that engaging with and legitimising this APPG will help deliver genuine reform.
The reform of UK whistleblowing law is a sober and critically important matter.
I urge all whistleblowers who take part in the debate to read as widely as possible.
The debate needs to be informed and evidence-based, and any solutions need to be just, credible, sustainable and realistic for law reform to become a reality.
UPDATE 4 FEBRUARY 2019
I wrote to Stephen Kerr MP the Chair of the whistleblowing APPG on 31 January 2019 as I had not heard from the Chair of WBUK in response to my above query of 23 January.
Today, the parliamentary Registrar of Members’ Financial Interests has advised that Stephen Kerr MP has confirmed that the published APPG financial details are correct:
This is just to let you know that I have corresponded with the chair of the APPG on Whistleblowing who has confirmed that he believes the Group’s Register entry is indeed accurate. It sets out the sum which the secretariat expects to receive over the year.
This answers the question about the group’s register entry.
With best wishes”
This of course begs the question of why someone at Whistleblowers UK denied that the published details were accurate, and then did not or could not substantiate that denial.
HOW TO HELP
If you are a member of the public who would like to help protect future whistleblowers, a really simple and effective thing you can do is write to your MP to ask for the law to be reviewed. Here is a handy template letter that you can send off in couple of minutes:
Send this letter to your MP to help protect UK whistleblowers
What could a new whistleblowing law look like? A discussion document
Whistleblowers in Their Own Words: What’s wrong with UK whistleblowing law and how it needs to change
Whistleblowing in the NHS isn’t fixed yet, and this leaves patients exposed. An overview of unfinished policy business.
Mission Drift by the National Guardian: Further, proposed dilution of NHS whistleblower case reviews
2 thoughts on “Whistleblowing APPG: Whistleblowers UK and questions about funding by Constantine Cannon LLP”
great work as ever Minh.I noted a flood of young drug company staff at an APPG the Patients Association used to run on patient safety issues.
Sadly even more eminent committees like PACAC https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-administration-and-constitutional-affairs-committee/ to my mind are a waste of time and money.Their recent Enquiries on PHSO receive and publish vast amounts of seriously evidenced reports from users of the PHSO and their conclusions are never referred to in any useful or serious way by the committee.I was informed by an MP on it that the secretarial staff of the committee draft all the questions(that MPs ask) and the summaries/broefing-this MP had not read any complainants published reports nor even the ones for /by PHSO eg the recent pathetic ‘Value for money’ report. It would be great to get hold of the briefing notes the secretariat give the MPs to see the slant that comes from the secretariats reading and vetting in some cases of complainants reports. Transparency.Accountability. Scrutiny.! all Hogwash.
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Thanks Richard. To clarify for those who are unaware, APPGs are in no way comparable to formally constituted parliamentary select committees like the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC).
As I set out above, APPGs are random, special interest groups that have no official status whatsoever.
In contrast, Select Committees like PACAC are part of the parliamentary structure and have a very important formal, democratic role in holding government departments to account:
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