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Change in whistleblowing law 'will put lives at risk'

Plans to reform whistleblowing laws will put lives at risk by deterring workers from coming forward to expose wrongdoing, critics warned yesterday.

Business ministers propose changing legislation – the 1998 Public Interest Disclosure Act (Pida) – by introducing a public interest test, to plug a loophole that is being abused by bankers as a legal tactic in pay and bonus rows. But critics say the test will put off employees with genuine fears from coming forward.

Ministers quietly included the test in the Enterprise Bill introduced in the Queen's speech earlier this month. It is designed to counter the rise in Pida cases from 157 in 2000 to 1,761 in 2009. Legal experts believe the increase is dominated by so-called "pale stale males" exploiting the law as a litigation tactic in disputes with financial institutions.

Cathy James, the chief executive of Public Concern at Work, said: "This risks undermining what is a greatly misunderstood piece of legislation. We strongly urge ministers to reconsider."