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Employment Tribunal rules on Parliamentary Privilege challenge in Foreign Office whistle-blowing case

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Overhead view of colleagues in meeting

Josie Stewart is pursuing Employment Tribunal proceedings challenging her dismissal from the Foreign Office for making anonymous disclosures to the BBC questioning the government’s management of the Afghan evacuation.

She claims that her disclosures, which were based on her experiences working on the evacuation in the Afghan Crisis Centre in August 2021, were protected under the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA).

The Central London Employment has given its decision on an application by the Foreign Office to strike out various passages in Ms Stewart’s witness statement as offending Parliamentary Privilege.

These included passages referring to evidence given by the then Foreign Secretary (Dominic Raab) and senior civil servants to Parliamentary committees commending the conduct of the evacuation and discussing evidence that the Prime Minister (Boris Johnson) intervened to evacuate animals of the Nowzad animal charity.

They also included passages explaining that Ms Stewart went to the BBC to corroborate a damning account of the government’s failings given to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee by a more junior civil servant working in the Crisis Centre (Raphel Marshall), because the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and senior civil servants had publicly challenged the accuracy of that account to MPs.

The Tribunal has rejected arguments for Ms Stewart that striking out the passages would breach Ms Stewarts rights under Articles 6 and 10 of the ECHR and that the doctrine of Parliamentary Privilege does not apply in a PIDA case of this sort.

It has struck out five contentious passages referring to evidence of politicians / senior civil servants to Parliamentary Committees.

But it has declined to strike out the four passages referring to Mr Marshall’s evidence and its relevance in Ms Stewart’s decision to make her disclosures to the BBC. The full hearing is listed in May 2024.

Gavin Millar KC and Darryl Hutcheon are representing Ms Stewart instructed by James & West Law.
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