Topshop owner Sir Philip Green has been named in Parliament as the businessman at the centre of a “British #metoo” scandal. A 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 the retail tycoon.
But an injunction was taken out on Tuesday preventing the Telegraph – or anyone else in the media – from revealing the name of the businessman connected to the newspaper’s a nine-month investigation into “alleged sexual harassment and racial abuse of staff”.
So how does this happen?
The person taking out the injunction successfully argued that the people making claims about harassment and abuse had signed non-disclosure agreements, better known as NDAs, and so the media could not publish any of the information.
However, Lord Peter Hain, the former Labour leader of the House of Commons, on Thursday used something called “parliamentary privilege” to say Green’s name.
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 this story which is clearly in the public interest.”
Hain was able to do this legally, without the threat of being sued, because Members of Parliament have legal immunity from actions or statements they make in the house.
This means they are able to debate any matter without fear of a criminal or civil case being brought against them, which means the injunction does not apply.
The reason the media are then able to report what Hain said in the debate is because in the court of law they have the defence called “qualified privilege”.
This allows anyone to publish what was said in Parliament as long as it’s an accurate reproduction of the comments and they will have guaranteed protection from any case brought against them. Members of Parliament do not have the protection outside of Parliament.
The law dates back to the 1689 Bill of Rights, where in article 9 it says that “the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament”.