Whistleblowers in armed forces must be protected, says MP Angus Robertson
Whistleblowers in the armed forces should be given the same protection as civilian employees, according to a senior SNP MP.
Armed forces personnel are forbidden from discussing their work with MPs, MEPs or members of devolved legislatures (MDLs) such as the Scottish or Welsh parliaments without the approval of UK government ministers.
SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson, the party’s leader at Westminster, has questioned “what the MoD has to hide”.
He insisted that “scandals” such as kit shortages, maintenance shortcuts and “the many MoD procurement bungles” would not have been revealed without whistleblowers.
Mr Robertson has circulated MoD instructions on contact with parliamentarians, obtained through a freedom of information request, informing forces personnel they are “accountable to ministers” and “not accountable to parliament”.
The document is marked “unclassified” but with instructions that it is “not to be communicated to anyone outside HM Service without authority”.
It says there should “be no need for contact between Crown servants, irrespective of seniority, and parliamentarians unless specifically authorised by the Secretary of State or a delegated minister”.
Personnel are also instructed to inform ministers of any unexpected or unsolicited contact with parliamentarians or their staff.
UK government guidance says employers cannot prevent employees from reporting improper, illegal or negligent behaviour as part of their employment contract or any other agreement.
Mr Robertson, whose Moray constituency covers RAF Lossiemouth and Kinloss barracks, has questioned why this does not appear to apply to MoD staff.
He said: “I am appalled by this diktat which raises the obvious question of what the MoD has to hide.
“It is totally unacceptable for anyone to dictate what an individual can tell their MP – particularly given our dual duty to represent constituents and hold the government, including the Ministry of Defence, to account.
“Without whistleblowers we would never have known that frontline troops had been left without basic kit, that shortcuts were being taken on the maintenance of aircraft, uncovered the scandal over under-armed Snatch Land Rovers or the many MoD procurement bungles.
“And at a time when the MoD is making further deep cuts to our defence capabilities, it is more important than ever that personnel feel able to raise concerns about malpractice or wrongdoing.
“Why should defence personnel not be afforded the same employment rights as other workers when it comes to whistleblowing?”
Forces personnel are still permitted to contact parliamentarians on “purely personal” matters”.
An MoD spokesman said MPs have privileged access to defence ministers in Parliament.
He said: “There is no question of forbidding contact between officials and MPs. The DIN (Defence Instructions and Notices) simply reminds MoD employees that ministerial agreement is required before any parliamentary contact.”
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