Lord Hain under fire for naming Sir Philip Green amid #MeToo allegations
Lord Hain’s decision to name Sir Philip Green as the businessman at the centre of #MeToo allegations of sexual harassment and racial abuse has been condemned by senior lawyers.
Former Cabinet minister Lord Hain used the protection of parliamentary privilege to identify the Arcadia chairman as the individual behind a legal injunction preventing The Daily Telegraph from publishing “confidential information” from five employees.
Sir Philip “categorically and wholly” denied being guilty of any “unlawful sexual or racist behaviour”, in a statement issued hours after the Labour peer’s dramatic intervention in the House of Lords.
Meanwhile Lord Hain said he was “completely unaware” that a law firm he is paid to advise was acting for the Telegraph in the case.
Legal experts questioned the former Cabinet minister’s decision to exercise his right to name Sir Philip because the case is going through the courts.
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve QC said Lord Hain’s behaviour had been “clearly arrogant” and he had abused parliamentary privilege in deciding he knew better than the courts.
“You cannot operate a democratic, free society subject to the rule of law when peers or MPs decide quite capriciously to take the law into their own hands,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World at One.
And ex-lord chief justice Lord Judge told the programme he thought Lord Hain was wrong, adding: “I don’t think that parliamentary privilege is designed to take away any citizen’s rights, even if we don’t very much like them.”
The principle of parliamentary privilege means that MPs and peers cannot be sued for libel for comments made in the Houses of Parliament, and offers protection to media outlets reporting those comments.
Lord Hain said he felt he had a “duty” to name Sir Philip.
The peer acts as a global and governmental adviser for Gordon Dadds, the firm representing the Telegraph.
But he insisted he took his decision acting in a “personal capacity” and “I categorically state that I was completely unaware Gordon Dadds were advising the Telegraph regarding this case.
“Gordon Dadds, a highly respected and reputable international law firm, played absolutely no part whatsoever in either the sourcing of my information or my independent decision to name Sir Philip.
“They were completely unaware of my intentions until after I spoke in the House of Lords”
The law firm said Lord Hain provides “occasional advice”, mainly in relation to Africa and “he has no involvement in the advice that we provide to The Telegraph newspaper and he had no knowledge of any sensitive information regarding this case”.
The identification of Sir Philip led to fresh calls for the Honours Forfeiture Committee to consider withdrawing his knighthood – previously challenged in the furore over shortfalls in the BHS pension scheme.
Downing Street stressed that the Honours Forfeiture Committee was independent.
“They are constantly reviewing evidence in relation to matters like this,” a Number 10 spokeswoman said.
She added that the Prime Minister had been clear on the wider issue that “bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace is against the law and that kind of behaviour can’t be tolerated”.
Lord Hain told peers on Thursday he had been contacted by someone “intimately involved” in a case of a wealthy businessman using non-disclosure agreements and payments “to conceal the truth about serious and repeated sexual harassment, racist abuse and bullying”.
He said: “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.”
Sir Philip responded in 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.”
The Telegraph has written to Sir Philip’s lawyers threatening to quickly return to court for the trial unless they drop the injunction.
Ending the legal battle would allow its reporters to air the allegations from those who entered controversial non-disclosure agreements.