Bringing EU Trades Secret rules into UK law ‘legally confusing and will stop whistleblowers speaking up’

15th March 2018

Press Release

Whistleblowing experts, Public Concern at Work (PCaW) is warning against UK government plans to bring EU trades secrets protection into UK national law - which will block whistleblowers and journalists from speaking up about companies, such as the ‘Luxleaks’ scandal.

As a legal charity, PCaW, helps protect society by encouraging workplace whistleblowing and runs a confidential advice line to help workers with whistleblowing dilemmas. It also campaigns for legislative reform to protect whistleblowers.

PCaW, along with 21 civil society campaign groups, including Corporate Europe Observatory, Transparency International, Global Witness and Courage Foundation, is campaigning to ensure EU Trade Secrets rules aimed at protecting legitimate trade secrets - which the UK government wants to incorporate into UK law – does not stop public scrutiny of corporate activities.

The draft regulations in the Intellectual Property Office’s consultation on EU Trade Secrets, risks giving businesses new rights to use and extract financial damages from people – whistleblowers, journalists, trade unions, employees – who disclose internal information about a company – even if they act in the public interest.

PCaW Legal Consultant, Cathy James, said, “We are very concerned the Intellectual Property Office’s consultation will simply create legal ambiguity and confusion. It is imperative the whistleblowing legislation – the Public Interest Disclosure Act - is included and strengthened within the Trade Secrets Directive."

The 21-strong campaign collective are also calling on freedom of expression for journalists and to ensure the Trade Secrets Directive does not – even inadvertently – lead to Public Authorities fearing the threat of being sued for damages when releasing commercial data under freedom of information laws. The Directive must not undermine freedom of information laws by creating legal ambiguity about the situations in which commercial information can be legitimately released.

PCaW works across all sectors in the UK including health, finance, retail and the public sector and receives around 2,000 calls each year to its whistleblowing advice line.

PCaW has responded to the Intellectual Property Office’s consultation on EU Trade Secrets, and is a signature on a letter to MP Sam Gyimah calling on the Trade Secrets Directive to ‘respect and strengthen the rights of whistleblowers, public authorities, trade unionists, journalists and employees.’

PCaW Legal Consultant, Cathy James, said, “Everyone who cares about corporate transparency and accountability should be concerned by the risks posed by this little-known EU law and the UK government’s corporate-friendly draft regulation."

Read our Consultation Response and Policy Paper.