Justice Secretary Ken Clarke said today that Parliament could pass a Privacy Act aimed at providing clarity to judges over gagging orders.
Clarke told MPs that introducing new laws could be the “best way” of resolving the situation in which injunctions are awarded to celebrities but their names are then disclosed on social networking sites.
At Commons question time, he faced calls from his Labour counterpart Sadiq Khan to provide “clarity and guidance” to British judges, over whom Parliament has supremacy.
Clarke said: “We will consider these matters and indeed it is probably right to say that Parliament passing a Privacy Act might well be the best way of resolving it.
“But I think we need to get somewhat nearer to a consensus and one needs to know exactly how you’re trying to strike this balance before something is submitted to the judgment of Parliament.
“It may well be that we don’t have to wait for a long controversial process like that, we can find some other way of tackling it. We are considering this issue and we’ll come back in due course.”
Khan said it was important to get the balance right between freedom of speech and right to privacy.
He told Clarke: “You are also aware of the public disquiet about the use of the anonymity injunction and the super injunction – both its abuse or alleged abuse – but also the circumvention by use of, for example, Twitter. The current situation is not satisfactory.”
The Justice Secretary said he would wait for the results of an inquiry into injunctions by senior judge Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls, before he had a “proper look” at it.
He added: “But I think now the Government is going to have to study it and decide whether or not there is a case for intervening.
“There’ll never be unanimity on all these judgments, precisely because it is so difficult to balance the competing parts of the Convention on Human Rights and the competing interests involved.
“There have been cases where we certainly need to know, where people are disposing of waste material that they’re dumping off the coast of Africa, which is easy in one direction.
“On the other, every time I watch a football team I don’t think I necessarily need to know about the sex life of each of the players.”