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Lord Hain branded ‘arrogant’ for naming Sir Philip Green

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Sir Philip Green issued a statement saying he “categorically and wholly” denied the allegations

Naming Sir Philip Green as the man who prevented a newspaper publishing allegations of sexual and racial harassment was “arrogant”, former Attorney General Dominic Grieve says.

Mr Grieve told the BBC that Lord Hain undermined the rule of law and “abused” his parliamentary privilege.

Lord Hain defended revealing the name, saying he had received “overwhelming support – particularly from women”.

Sir Philip says he “categorically and wholly” denies the allegations.

‘Political witch hunt’

The Daily Telegraph first reported on the injunction on Wednesday, saying a “leading businessman” had won a legal battle to stop the newspaper printing “confidential information” from five employees.

It has now written to Sir Philip’s lawyers, asking him to drop the injunction as he has now issued a statement himself and the whole matter has had “very wide coverage”.

Lord Hain identified the retail tycoon on Thursday using parliamentary privilege, which protects MPs and peers from being prosecuted for libel over statements made in the Commons or Lords.

Mr Grieve told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “We can’t operate a democratic free society when peers or MPs decide to take the law into their own hands.”

The legal process has been turned into “what looks like a political witch hunt”, he added.

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Media captionLord Hain says he stands by his decision to name Sir Philip Green, who denies the claims

The injunction against the Telegraph was only an interim one, and judges had not even made their final decision before Lord Hain intervened, he said.

Parliamentary privilege is “very important” but “open to abuse”, said Mr Grieve, adding: “I can’t see – looking at this particular matter – that Peter Hain can argue that he hasn’t abused it.”

Lord Judge, former lord chief justice, also said he thought Lord Hain was wrong.

“I don’t think that parliamentary privilege is designed to take away any citizen’s rights, even if we don’t very much like them,” he said.

Meanwhile, pledges to boycott Sir Philip’s stores, including Topshop, have been made on social media .

The Telegraph says it spent eight months investigating allegations of bullying, intimidation and sexual harassment.

After he was contacted for comment in July, Sir Philip and a number of senior staff applied for an injunction to stop details being published, the Telegraph said.

A High Court judge refused to grant the gagging order the following month, but Appeal Court judges ruled in Sir Philip’s favour on Tuesday this week.

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Sir Philip, pictured with daughter Chloe, wife Tina and F1 driver Lewis Hamilton, at Cannes Film Festival last year

The Telegraph also reported that interviews with five members of Sir Philip’s staff revealed that “substantial sums” had been paid 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.

While the Court of Appeal’s temporary order banning the naming of Sir Philip remains in force, Lord Hain told the House of Lords he “felt it was his duty” to identify the Topshop boss and that it was in the public interest.

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Media captionLord Hain said the details were “clearly in the public interest”

The former Neath MP said he had been contacted by someone “intimately involved in the case” and, given the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) “to conceal the truth about serious and repeated sexual harassment, racist abuse and bullying”, he felt he should speak out.

‘Wealth, power and abuse’

Speaking later on BBC Newsnight, Lord Hain denied he was undermining a decision of the courts, saying: “I considered it extremely seriously before I said it.”

“I’m not disputing judges’ responsibilities or timing or anything like that. That’s a matter for the judiciary,” he said.

“I’m discharging my function as a parliamentarian – and what concerned me about this case was wealth, and power that comes with it, and abuse.”

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Media captionDoes Parliamentary privilege undermine the law?

Lord Hain said while there had been some criticism of his decision on social media, he had received “overwhelming support – particularly from women”.

Labour MP Jess Phillips said Lord Hain was right to name Sir Philip, adding: “I think that he wouldn’t have taken the decision lightly at all. Parliamentary privilege is used in vanishingly rare situations.”

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Sir Philip is also a regular at London Fashion Week, seen here in 2015

There have been calls for Arcadia chairman Sir Philip to lose his knighthood if the allegations are proved to be correct, from MPs including Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable.

And Labour’s Frank Field, who led condemnation of Sir Philip over the BHS pension fund scandal, said: “The charge sheet against the knighthood is growing.”

Sir Philip’s recent fall from grace came after he sold the retail chain BHS for £1 in March 2015 and it then went into administration, leaving a £571m hole in its pension fund.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokeswoman said the Honours Forfeiture Committee, which would decide on such a matter, is independent of government and “constantly reviewing evidence in relation to matters like this”.

She added that Mrs May has been clear on the wider issue that “bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace is against the law and that kind of behaviour can’t be tolerated”.

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PA

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Sir Philip Green was knighted in 2006 for services to the retail industry

Sir Philip said in a statement on Thursday night that he would not comment on anything that happened in court or was said in Parliament.

“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,” he said.

Sir Philip said he and his company, Arcadia, “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.”



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