Peers should be careful not to put themselves in “conflict” with the courts, the Lord Speaker has warned after Lord Hain named Sir Philip Green as the tycoon at the centre of fresh #MeToo claims in the Daily Telegraph.
Parliamentarians should be “keen to respect the proper business of the courts” just as it would be expected for the authority of Parliament, Lord Fowler said.
His intervention came yesterday after Labour former cabinet minister Lord Hain used parliamentary privilege to identify the Topshop boss as the person behind an injunction which bans the Telegraph from publishing allegations of sexual harassment and racial abuse.
Sir Philip has “categorically and wholly” denied the allegations and said he would complain to the Lords authorities that the peer failed to disclose when he spoke out that he was a paid adviser to the Telegraph’s lawyers.
Lord Hain (pictured) has stood by his decision and dismissed Sir Philip’s claim as a “malevolent diversion”.
The veteran politician has been criticised by some lawyers and legal experts for what they say was an abuse of parliamentary privilege, although he has been backed by many MPs.
Amid the controversy, Lord Fowler, in an unusual move, issued a written statement on parliamentary privilege.
He said: “A robust and healthy democracy such as ours rests upon a number of common and shared features.
“Two of the most important are the freedom for members of the legislature to speak freely, without repercussion and respect by the legislature for the independence of the courts and the rule of law.
“As we know, this is not the case everywhere in the world. The relationship between these two should not be one of conflict but one of mutual respect.
“As parliamentarians we should be keen to respect the proper business of the courts, just as we expect the courts to respect the authority of Parliament.
“In particular, we should be careful that in exercising our undoubted right to free speech in Parliament we do not set ourselves in conflict with the courts or seek to supplant them.”
Picture: BBC Parliament