By Dr Minh Alexander NHS whistleblower and former consultant psychiatrist 31 October 2019
Norman Lamb Vice Chair of the Whistleblowing APPG stated in a letter dated 24 October 2019 to a whistleblower who had raised concerns about the private company WhistleblowersUK – the APPG’s secretariat – that he was standing down from the APPG.
He indicated that this was because he had not received a response from the secretariat to questions put to him by a concerned third party.
Norman Lamb’s office informed me that he had put my questions to Georgina Halford Hall CEO of WhistleblowersUK, and that the information requested would be shared with me. It never was.
WhistleblowersUK Companies House 09347927 is a private company established in December 2014
It was appointed as the secretariat to the Whistleblowing APPG, which was set up in summer 2018.
The APPG register shows that WBUK has received remuneration from US bounty hunting lawyers Constantine Cannon to act as the Whistleblowing APPG secretariat
The Whistleblowing APPG website also reveals the APPG has received unspecified “support” from the company NAVEX Global, which sells compliance services.
As of 23rd October 2019, this was the published membership of the Whistleblowing APPG:
After the above news of Norman Lamb’s resignation from the APPG, I asked his office if he had ever received the requested information from Georgina Halford Hall. I was informed that he had not received a response from WhistleblowersUK.
Email exchange with Norman Lamb’s office 31 October 2019
From: “COWIE, William” <REDACTED>
Subject: RE: Questions about the whistleblowing APPG’s relationship with its corporate backers and about its secretariat
Date: 30 October 2019 at 11:52:34 GMT
To: Minh Alexander ” <REDACTED >
Thanks for your email. Norman’s letter of resignation was dated 24 October; however it was sent on the 28 October. As such I’m not surprised he still features on the list dated from 23rd.
Norman didn’t receive a response to the questions which he put to the secretariat.
Parliamentary Researcher for Sir Norman Lamb MP
Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for North Norfolk
From: LAMB, Norman <REDACTED>
From: minh alexander <REDACTED>
I gather that Norman has resigned from the Whistleblowing APPG because he did not “get responses from the secretariat [WhistleblowersUK] to questions put to me by a concerned third party”.
1) May I ask when Norman resigned?
I ask because all versions of the Whistleblowing APPG’s entry for the APPG register, including the 23th October version, list Norman as an APPG Vice Chair.
2) Also, am I correct in thinking that because I never received the further promised clarification from you, that Norman did not receive the information that he requested as below from Georgina Halford Hall?
Dr Minh Alexander
A copy of Norman Lamb’s resignation letter of 24th October was shared with me. The letter was not addressed to the APPG chairs but to Georgina Halford-Hall, and it gave the reason for his resignation as the lack of response to his request for information on finance:
Whether this was genuinely the primary reason for Norman Lamb’s resignation after several months from my raising the concerns, or whether the resignation was because his political instincts told him to step away for other reasons, it is a significant development.
It also seems extraordinary not only that an APPG secretariat behaved unaccountably, but that instead of an APPG dispensing with the services of such a secretariat, a tussle has ended instead with an APPG member resigning.
One has to ask what came first: the APPG and a passion for protecting the public interest, or the secretariat and the corporate interests behind it? Who instigated? Who is calling the shots and to what ends?
What were the questions from July that WhistleblowersUK did not answer? Here they are:
“Questions about the whistleblowing APPG’s relationship with its corporate backers and about its secretariat
I tweeted some of your members several times about what “support’ the private company NAVEX Global is providing to the Whistleblowing APPG, and whether the support includes finance.
To date I have not yet received a substantive reply.
Norman Lamb responded this morning to say that he had seen my question for the first time.
He has agreed to find this information.
In case the APPG and or its members have apparently overlooked or not noticed my other recent tweeted questions, I would be grateful if you could note and respond to them, particularly as the Whistleblowing APPG is seeking to influence UK whistleblowing policy and has been asking whistleblowers for their contributions and support.
I think transparency and accountability is needed in the circumstances.
My as yet unanswered questions are as follows:
1) Has Whistleblowers UK, the APPG’s secretariat, or any officers of Whistleblowers UK had any business dealings or paid engagements with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)?
I ask as a post dated 21 January 2019 on the Whistleblowers UK’s website states that Whistleblowers UK’s CEO has been advising the FCA:
2) If Whistleblowers UK or its officers have undertaken paid work for the FCA, what is the Whistleblowing APPG’s view on how this affects the APPG’s neutrality, and what action might it take in response?
3) Will the Whistleblowing APPG end its association with NAVEX Global given NAVEX Global’s claims that it has helped SERCO commit to ethical business conduct, when numerous scandals continue?
4) Will the Whistleblowing APPG be willing to transparently list the organisations to which Whistleblowers has sold services, or to which Whistleblowers UK has provided NEDs to act as whistleblowing champions?
I ask as the CEO of whistleblowers UK appears to be advertising these services on her LinkedIn account:
“services include providing professional non executive directors in the whistleblower champion role. We provide training, consultancy, media advice.. a range packages to meet regulatory requirements.”
These services may not exist yet. It is not clear if these services exist yet, as a post on the Whistleblowers UK website states that the company will be offering training to organisations, but that this training is “in development”.
5) Can the APPG or its secretariat explain why a post on the Whistleblowers UK website of 15 May 2019 seems to be stating that Whistleblowers UK is a charity:
when other material on the website states that the company is a ’not for profit’ organisation, and Whistleblowers UK tweeted explicitly on 22 June 2019 that it was not a charity?
Susan Kramer, one of two APPG Co Chairs, appears not much troubled by my above questions and my concerns about the APPG sponsor NAVEX Global, as she is listed as a panel host for a NAVEX event.
But to exclude any doubt, I have written to her to ask if the APPG will replace WhistleblowersUK as its secretariat, and also to ask the APPG to review the contents of its first report published July 2019.
There are surely questions about this report, given WhistleblowersUk’s central role in handling the evidence that supported the report and the production of the report itself. This is not least because WhistleblowersUK also made a claim that its CEO stood trial, when this is contradicted by the Crown Prosecution Service
Mary Inman of Constantine Cannon – the US bounty hunting firm that has paid WhistleblowersUK to act as APPG secretariat – acknowledged last year that Brits have a “visceral” dislike of bounties. She suggested a more “culturally appropriate” version could be created:
“Inman says it is time for the UK to introduce incentives. While she says there is a “visceral” reaction here to anything seen as a “bounty”, she thinks the UK could create a culturally appropriate scheme which caps any rewards”
My reading of the APPG’s report is that whilst it pulled back from nakedly calling for US style whistleblower bounties, it tried to open the door.
It did so by calling for whistleblower protection to be extended to all members of the public – thus creating the conditions in which all members of the public could be deputised to file US style qui tam suits:
Whistleblowing APPG report published July 2019, Recommendation 3, page 5
I have also asked Susan Kramer if she is willing to disclose the total number of concerns raised so far with APPG members, past or current, about WhistleblowersUK, what action broadly has resulted from such concerns and to confirm that all concerns have now been acted upon. This is partly because one whistleblower reported that they received no response from the APPG for three months, to a concern which had potential Safeguarding implications.
I have copied Vince Cable into the correspondence as he was involved in July in promoting the APPG’s ten point plan:
Qui Tam suits – “In the name of the King”
These are, put very simply, legal actions by Joe Public regarding purported wrongdoing against the State. There is usually a bounty involved for the person suing.
Ms Inman explained it all here and threw in a historical reference to Ye Olde Englande:
She also stated at 37.24:
It should be pointed out that such deputisation was a primitive form of governance in far away times and places where formal structures were lacking. It was abandoned centuries ago as the law and courts developed.
It was resurrected in the US under the exigencies of civil war, and designed to be an emergency measure which exploited the worst of human nature for the greater good.
“In short, I have based the…sections upon the old-fashioned idea of hold out a temptation,” and “setting a rogue to catch a rogue…a reward for the informer who comes into court and betrays his co-conspirator”
Not very savoury, but a last ditch attempt under extraordinary circumstances.
The modern day US version of bounties, revived in recent decades, is ruthless and exploitative, and makes a lot of money for middlemen. However, it leaves some genuine whistleblowers high and dry because they are not valuable enough to the State. It also focusses on protecting State financial assets much more than people.
I think we can and should do better than that.
UPDATE 13 FEBRUARY 2020
The whistleblowing APPG continues in its unaccountability and has launched a Bill which contains no commitment to protecting whistleblowers, ensuring that their concerns are properly handled nor robustly deterring reprisal. But it does specify items which would be beneficial to whistleblowing industry middlemen.
The Whistleblowing APPG has been an unwelcome distraction from serious governance work on the desperate need to reform UK whistleblowing law. This is a brief summary of the current law’s serious flaws, and the main remedies that are so badly needed to protect whistleblowers and the public: