Philip Green denies wrongdoing after being named as boss in gagging clause row
Topshop owner Sir Philip Green has "categorically and wholly" denied being guilty of "unlawful sexual or racist behaviour".
The denial came after the retail tycoon was named in Parliament as the businessman behind an injunction against the Daily Telegraph.
Former Cabinet minister Lord Hain said he had been contacted by someone "intimately involved" in the case and felt it was his duty to use parliamentary privilege to name Sir Philip.
Lord Hain's intervention came after Court of Appeal judges temporarily barred the Telegraph from publishing "confidential information" from five employees about a figure the newspaper described as a "leading businessman".
The paper wants to reveal what it calls "alleged sexual harassment and racial abuse of staff", who have been prevented from discussing their claims by non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).
The Labour peer told the House of Lords: "Having been contacted by somebody intimately involved in the case of a powerful businessman using non-disclosure agreements and substantial payments to conceal the truth about serious and repeated sexual harassment, racist abuse and bullying, which is compulsively continuing, I feel it's my duty under parliamentary privilege to name Philip Green as the individual in question given that the media have been subject to an injunction preventing publication of the full details of a story which is clearly in the public interest."
After his statement was made in the chamber and broadcast on parliamentlive.tv, Lord Hain confirmed it referred to the chairman of Arcadia Group, whose brands include Topshop, Topman, Wallis, Evans, Burton, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins and Outfit.
Some hours after the peer's dramatic move, Sir Philip released a statement saying: "I am not commenting on anything that has happened in court or was said in Parliament today.
"To the extent that it is suggested that I have been guilty of unlawful sexual or racist behaviour, I categorically and wholly deny these allegations.
"Arcadia and I take accusations and grievances from employees very seriously and in the event that one is raised, it is thoroughly investigated.
"Arcadia employs more than 20,000 people and in common with many large businesses sometimes receives formal complaints from employees. In some cases these are settled with the agreement of all parties and their legal advisers. These settlements are confidential so I cannot comment further on them."
On Wednesday, Theresa May pledged to hasten measures to improve regulation around so-called gagging clauses in response to questions about the case.
The Prime Minister said some employers are using NDAs "unethically" as she criticised "abhorrent" sexual harassment in the workplace.
Mrs May's spokesman declined to comment on Lord Hain's statement.
Asked if the PM feels it is acceptable for parliamentarians to use the protection of privilege to put information into the public domain in this way, the spokesman said: "The rules of parliamentary privilege are a matter for Parliament and how they exercise these rules is obviously a matter for individual members."
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said Sir Philip "narrowly and luckily escaped losing his knighthood over the pensions scandal".
And he added: "If these allegations are correct, he should certainly be stripped of his knighthood."
Labour equalities spokeswoman Dawn Butler said: "While much of the focus in the coming days will be on this man and his alleged actions, let us also pay tribute to survivors of sexual abuse and harassment, who are too often silenced and cannot command an army of lawyers to fight their corner.
"NDAs should never be used to suppress allegations of criminal behaviour. If the current law doesn't protect the voices of survivors, the next Labour government will legislate to do so."
In the Telegraph case, appeal judges ruled it is likely the boss could establish a "substantial" part of the information was obtained through "breach of duty of confidentiality" by those who broke the NDAs or were aware of them.
In August, High Court judge Mr Justice Haddon-Cave refused to gag the newspaper but the executive – identified in court papers as ABC – and managers at two companies mounted a challenge.
Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton, Lord Justice Underhill and Lord Justice Henderson outlined their decision in a ruling published on Tuesday.
In all five cases complaints had been "compromised by settlement agreements" under which "substantial payments" were made to the employees who had complained, they wrote.
Judges said the claimants felt that information "had been disclosed to the newspaper by one or more of the complainants, or by other employees who were aware of the information and of the non-disclosure agreements".
They said there was a "real prospect" that publication would cause substantial and possible irreversible harm to the claimants.
The judges granted "an interim injunction preserving the confidentiality of the information pending a full trial".
Conservative MP James Cleverly said Lord Hain's action had shown "people must now realise that injunctions and super-injunctions are nothing more than a good way to part with large sums of money and a bad way to keep things secret".