UK billionaire named over #MeToo claims

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Retail billionaire Sir Philip Green has been named in Parliament as the businessman accused by a newspaper of sexual harassment.

Peter Hain, who identified him in the Lords, said it was his duty to name him, given the “serious and repeated” nature of the allegations.

On Tuesday, the Telegraph ran an article accusing a leading businessman of racial and sexual abuse of staff.

A legal injunction prevented the Telegraph from publishing his identity.

The Court of Appeal’s ruling on Tuesday, blocking publication of Sir Philip’s name, remains in place, but Lord Hain’s statement, made under parliamentary privilege, has been widely reported in the UK media.

Lord Hain said publication of the story was “clearly in the public interest”.

The Daily Telegraph said it had spent eight months investigating allegations of bullying, intimidation and sexual harassment made against the man in question.

What were the allegations made in the Telegraph?

The newspaper reported that interviews with five members of staff revealed that victims had been paid “substantial sums” in return for legal commitments not to discuss their alleged experiences.

The BBC has not been able to verify the allegations contained in the Telegraph’s report.

Lord Hain said he had been contacted by someone “intimately involved in the case”.

He said that given the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) “to conceal the truth about serious and repeated sexual harassment, racist abuse and bullying”, he felt it was his duty under parliamentary privilege to name Sir Philip as the individual in question.

Parliamentary privilege protects MPs or peers from being prosecuted over statements made in the Commons or Lords and is one of the oldest rights enshrined in British law.

Sir Philip has been contacted by the BBC for comment, but did not immediately respond.

Who is Sir Philip Green?

By Simon Jack, BBC business editor

Sir Philip Green has built a fortune from a retail empire that includes Topshop, BHS, Burton and Miss Selfridge.

It was a fortune he didn’t mind flaunting – inviting a few hundred of the world’s most famous people including Sir Elton John, the Clintons, Elizabeth Hurley and Kate Moss to celebrate lavish 50th and 60th birthday parties.

He portrayed himself as a rags-to riches businessman and his reputation as a great deal maker was further endorsed in 2010 when David Cameron asked him to review whether government procurement departments could get better value for money.

The collapse of BHS saw his crown not just slide, but hit the floor with a clang.

He sold the business to a three-time bankrupt Dominic Chappell – going so far as helping to finance him in order to offload the business and its massive pension scheme deficit.

BHS collapsed soon after leaving 12,000 people out of work and a further 20,000 people facing reduced pensions. During a series of testy encounters with MPs, throughout which he showed his famously volatile temper, Sir Philip promised to “sort” the pension fund – which he eventually did – handing over £363m.

He hoped his reputation could be repaired following that payment. Today’s allegations mean he has a new – and possibly bigger – battle to fight.

Why was Lord Hain’s intervention unexpected?

By Clive Coleman, BBC legal correspondent

The naming of Sir Philip Green in the House of Lords is a surprising development.

People will remember back to the super-injunction stories of recent years, including the case of footballer Ryan Giggs. When he was named using parliamentary privilege, it was frowned upon.

Parliamentarians and the judiciary alike were very concerned that this privilege should not be used to undermine the rule of law.

And a great effort was made from that time to ensure that this didn’t happen again.

So the judiciary is unlikely to be pleased.

The injunction in this case was a court order granted by three of the most senior judges in the country at the Court of Appeal.

It was the rule of law in action. They had before them many facts and evidence to consider and came to a ruling that was pretty emphatic.

We have not got a constitutional crisis on our hands here, but we do have a really significant development in terms of the way in which parliamentary privilege is seen to be used in relation to court orders.

Camilla Tominey, associate editor of the Telegraph, told BBC Radio 4’s PM it was “farcical” that Lord Hain was able to name Sir Philip in the House of Lords, but, as the paper remained the subject of an injunction, it was unable to confirm or deny a name.

“It’s not the first time it’s happened and it won’t be the last,” she said.

The people who have made the claims had “bravely” come forward to the paper with the accusations, Ms Tominey added.

“We won’t ever be naming any of the claimants.”

 

Source: BBC

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