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Barbara Panvel salutes the brave whistleblowers who risk all to let the public know what's really going on.

On Saturday I had a letter from a retired State Registered Nurse who had just written to the Times because she was furious that Margaret Haywood had been struck off by panel of the Nursing and Midwifery Council after recording conditions at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, East Sussex, for the BBC’s Panorama programme.

The SRN added, ”I saw some appalling practices when my mother and stepfather were in hospital. Neither would let me complain – people are frightened and I can understand why”.

In 1972 Harold Evans wrote his first article on the condition of children whose mothers had taken thalidomide and four others were published in the Sunday Times. He would have been imprisoned if the sixth had been published.

Jack Ashley recently wrote that this courageous campaign set free a British press intimidated into silence by corporate power and an atmosphere of fear.

However, although the Public Interest Disclosure Act of 1998 introduced protection against victimisation and dismissal for those employees who "blow the whistle" on their employers for wrongdoing at work: there is still a real risk of legal action and getting sacked today.

A roll of honour would also include:

1983 Ross Hesketh, the scientist who exposed the covert supply of plutonium from the UK’s Magnox reactors to the USA.

1984 Sarah Tisdall, a junior clerk in the Foreign Office, who revealed that Michael Heseltine wanted to mislead Parliament and the British public about the deployment of cruise missiles.

1986 Clive Ponting, who revealed the real operational details of the sinking of the Argentinean battle-cruiser Belgrano during the Falklands War.

1998 Paul van Buitenen who revealed corruption and nepotism in the European institutions which led to the resignation of the entire European Commission in 1999 and has continued, as an MEP, to reveal malpractice; last year he reported on allowances paid for non-existent staff via a system of "service providers" or accountants.

2004 John Morrison, an adviser to the parliamentary intelligence and security Committee, who stated that the UK intelligence community did not believe that Saddam Hussein posed a ‘serious and current threat’ to this country

2004 Dr Chris Busby and Richard Bramhall, members of the committee examining radiation risks from internal emitters, who alleged that the risk of cancer from low-level radiation dangers is greater than realised.

2005 HBOS executive Paul Moore who warned the bank's board about its potentially dangerous "sales culture”

In this topsy-turvy world, while some politicians in the Lords and Commons, civil servants and special advisers are profiting from connections with large companies with impunity, at the other extreme are the ‘whistleblowers’ who reveal the truth and risk losing their jobs and facing legal sanctions.

The Daily Telegraph has been publishing details of leaked expenses and second homes allowance claims, which were due to be released after the June elections and then only under duress, because the Commons lost a Freedom of Information case.

True to the discreditable British tradition of closing ranks, the Speaker’s anger was directed at the person who made the facts known rather than at those who had made large claims on the public purse and he called in the police to track down the source of the information.

Brave readers who are thinking of risking their jobs and savings to reveal misdeeds, in the public interest, should first take to heart the guide to safer whistleblowing given by the Stirrer’s columnist, Dr David Nicholl.



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