Retail tycoon Sir Philip Green has been named in Parliament as the businessman behind an injunction against the Daily Telegraph.
Lord Hain told the House of Lords this afternoon that he felt it was his “duty” under Parliamentary privilege to name Green given media were blocked from revealing full details of a story “clearly in the public interest”.
The Telegraph reported yesterday that a “leading” British businessman faces allegations of sexual harassment and racial abuse of staff that “would be sure to reignite the #MeToo movement”.
The paper said it had spent eight months investigating the claims, but on Tuesday had been gagged by the Court of Appeal who granted the businessman an interim injunction pending a full hearing next year.
It said the figure had used non-disclosure agreements on at least five occasions to silence alleged victims with “substantial sums” of money.
The issue was raised during Prime Minister’s Questions at the House of Commons yesterday, but the businessman was not named.
Today, Lord Hain told the chamber: “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.”
Green has responded in a statement (updated 26.10.18), 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.”
Green’s outing in Parliament follows that of footballer Ryan Giggs in 2011 by Lib Dem MP John Hemming, also using Parliamentary privilege.
The former Manchester United midfielder had taken out a super injunction to prevent press coverage of his affair with Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas, which gagged reports even about the fact of its existence.
Giggs’s name had been shared thousands of time on Twitter and he had been identified as the footballer behind the injunction by the Sunday Herald prior to Hemming’s announcement in the Commons.
Both Giggs and Green were represented by Schillings International law firm in acquiring an injunction to block media coverage.
The Sun and the i newspaper followed up The Telelgraph’s splash yesterday, which had the headline: “The British #MeToo scandal which cannot be revealed,” and spoke out against gagging laws in leader columns.
Telegraph staff have been warned to be careful to not go beyond reporting what Lord Haine said in Parliament as regards Sir Philip Green or what has already been reported in the Telegraph’s paper and website.
An email to staff from deputy editor Robert Winnett, seen by Press Gazette, said: “It remains the case that to breach the injunction could result in a criminal penalty. Think before you tweet…”
Green’s Taveta Investments firm bought Arcadia Group – the company behind Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins and Burton clothes stores – in 2002.
He sold retailer BHS to an investment firm for £1 in 2015. The company fell into administration a year later, struggling with a pension deficit of £571m. Green later paid £363m to plug a hole in the pension scheme.
Green faced calls for his knighthood to be stripped over the collapse of BHS, which resulted in the loss of 11,000 jobs.
Picture: Reuters/Mary Turner