The parliamentary recess offers an ideal opportunity for sensitive decisions to pass without challenge. Was it coincidence then that soon after the end of the parliamentary term came news the Government was dispensing with the services of two people who had caused it particular embarrassment?
John Morrison, a senior intelligence officer, was told his contract as chief investigator to the Intelligence and Security Committee was not being renewed, while Steve Moxon, the immigration officer from Sheffield, learnt that he had been sacked. Mr Moxon, who had claimed that statutory checks on would-be immigrants were being waived, says he will take the Government to an employment tribunal "and win". Mr Morrison, who told BBC1's Panorama programme Whitehall had given "a collective raspberry" to Mr Blair's claim about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, has held his peace.
Whether or not Mr Morrison makes a complaint, each of these cases, in its own way, tests the five-year-old Public Interest Disclosure Act, more commonly known as the law on whistle-blowers, and illustrates its shortcomings. As an intelligence officer, Mr Morrison is not protected. That he was contracted to work for the Intelligence and Security Committee may or may not make a difference, but could also undermine any claim. Technically, he has not been dismissed; his contract has simply not been renewed.
Mr Moxon, whose disclosures indirectly triggered the immigration minister's resignation, may be on firmer legal ground. But even he must show that he took his charges to the media only after he had failed to obtain a response through internal channels. E-mails he sent to his superiors suggest he did, but will they count? And if he wins, will he be reinstated or paid off?
The fact that Mr Morrison and Mr Moxon went public as they did suggests they may qualify as "awkward customers". Awkward or not, the fact is that both spoke the truth - truth that those in power did not want divulged, truth that the public deserved to know, truth that has cost them their jobs. If the whistle- blowing legislation does not protect them, we are surely entitled to ask what it is worth.Reuse content