Aylesbury MP David Lidington rejects motion ‘giving legal protection to child abuse whistleblowers’

David Lidington
David Lidington

Civil servants who speak out over historic child abuse will not be given legal protection after MPs including David Lidington rejected a change in the law.

The amendment to the Official Secrets Act would give protection under the law to anyone who has signed the act, if they were to come forward in an investigation into historic child abuse.

I am not decrying John Mann’s motives and it is right that these issues are debated seriously in this way, but this amendment did not add anything

David Lidington

Anyone who works with sensitive government information is required to sign the act, and Labour MP John Mann, who tabled the amendment believes that protecting them by law would encourage more witnesses of sex offences to come forward,

But a Conservative majority voted out the proposals, 296 votes to 233.

Home Secretary Teresa May and David Cameron assured any potential witnesses that anyone who came forward would not be prosecuted if they break the rules of the act in the process of giving evidence.

And Attorney General Jeremy Wright said that he would not pursue any prosecution in respect of people breaking the act in this way.

This relates in particular to the ongoing Goddard Inquiry into sex abuse at Westminster.

Mr Mann said: “I have met with former special branch officers and senior civil servants who have all told me that they cannot come forward to discuss the evidence they know of until such a guarantee is in place.

“The new clause provided that guarantee and it was very disappointing to see the government whip against the measure.

“Until all the evidence comes to light we won’t know for certain how many people were involved and we owe it to the survivors of child abuse to get this sorted.”

Mr Lidington, who represents Aylesbury but is also minister for Europe, said: “The police must conduct their inquiries independently of all politics and get to the truth wherever the evidence takes them.

“I am not decrying John Mann’s motives and it is right that these issues are debated seriously in this way, but this amendment did not add anything.

“We don’t add things to the law if we don’t need to , and I genuinely think that any apprehensions that people may have are misguided, the assurances couldn’t have been made any clearer.”

Speaking in Parliament solicitor general Robert Buckland, said: “I assure Mr Mann that the Government are committed to assisting Justice Goddard’s inquiry and all other inquiries into child abuse. We are satisfied that the Official Secrets Act is not, will not, and should not be a bar to evidence being provided.”