Scotland politics

Call to protect armed forces whistleblowers by SNP MP

British soldier
Image caption Armed forces personnel are not allowed to discuss their work with parliamentarians

Whistleblowers in the armed forces should be given the same protection as civilian employees, according to the SNP's defence spokesman.

Currently Army, Navy and RAF personnel are forbidden from discussing their work with MPs, MEPs or members of the devolved parliaments.

Angus Robertson, the SNP's leader at Westminster, has questioned "what the MoD has to hide".

The MoD said concerns should be raised with ministers in the first instance.

Mr Robertson - whose constituency includes RAF Lossiemouth and Kinloss barracks - said issues such as kit shortages, maintenance shortcuts and procurement "bungles" would not have emerged without whistleblowers.

He 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 says there should "be no need for contact between Crown servants 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 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."

He added: "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?"

An MoD spokesman said MPs had 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 and provides MoD points of contact for parliamentary business.

"MPs and peers have direct privileged access to ministers and any information they require from the department is provided by ministers, for example in answer to parliamentary questions."

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