The businessman at the centre of the latest #MeToo scandal — that the Daily Telegraph was this week banned from revealing — has been named in parliament as Topshop boss Sir Philip Green.
Under what’s known as parliamentary privilege, Lord Peter Hain — former leader of the House of Commons — said he felt a “duty” to reveal the name, according to reports.
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“Someone intimately involved in the case of a powerful businessman using non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and substantial payments to conceal the truth about serious and repeated sexual harassment, racist abuse, and bulling 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 this story which is clearly in the public interest,” he said, in the House of Lords.
Best use of parliamentary privilege. Nice one Lord Hain. https://t.co/OxyN0ma0wx— Caitlin Webb (@WriterCaits) October 25, 2018
Green said he "categorically and wholly denies" the allegations.
The Daily Telegraph, a leading UK newspaper, claimed on Wednesday that it has been banned from reporting an alleged sexual harassment that “would be sure to reignite the #MeToo movement.”
It said that allegations of sexual harassment and racial abuse of staff had been made against a "leading UK businessman" — but that a court has granted an injunction preventing the man being named.
And it got everyone talking about the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to silence alleged victims. Labour MP Jess Phillips immediately raised the issue in the House of Commons, during Prime Minister’s Questions.
“It seems that our laws allow rich and powerful men to pretty much do whatever they want, as long as they can pay to keep it quiet,” said Phillips.
Labour's @JessPhillips: "It seems our laws allow rich and powerful men to pretty much do whatever they want as long as they can pay to keep it quiet"— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) October 24, 2018
Theresa May: Government will look at "unethical" use of non-disclosure agreements
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Her question was whether Prime Minister Theresa May agreed with the court’s decision to allow the reporting to be silenced.
May said she couldn’t comment on the case, according to reports, but said the government is working to tighten the regulations around NDA use.
“Sexual harassment in the workplace is against the law,” said May. “Such abhorrent behaviour should not be tolerated and an employer that allows that harassment to go un-dealt with is sending a message about how welcome they [women] are.”
“Non-disclosure agreements cannot stop people from whistleblowing but it is clear that some employers are using them unethically,” she added.
The Telegraph ran a story on its front page on Wednesday, under the headline: “The British #MeToo scandal which cannot be revealed.”
The front page of tomorrow's Daily Telegraph 'The British #MeToo scandal which cannot be revealed' #tomorrowspaperstodayhttps://t.co/ziX3OH5cTIpic.twitter.com/084Zdu7shF— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) October 23, 2018
According to the paper, the “British businessman used controversial non-disclosure agreements to silence and pay off his alleged victims with ‘substantial sums.’”
It means that basically all details about the case have to remain secret, including the businessman’s identity, the identity of the companies, what the accusations are, and how much he paid the alleged victims.
Generally, NDAs are used to protect confidential matters in businesses.
But the newspaper said that it raised “concerns” that NDAs are “now being abused to cover up wrongdoing and deter victims of potential crimes from going to police.”
Maria Miller, chair of the Commons Women and Equality committee, described the use of NDAs to stop victims reporting it as “shocking” — and said shouldn’t be used “where there are accusations of sexual misconduct and wider bullying.”
The paper also cited Zelda Perkins, a former aide of Harvey Weinstein, who broke an NDA from the 1990s to speak out about alleged harassment.
“They [NDAs] were originally very useful things to protect commercial property and company secrets which, of course, is fair enough,” she said. “But, in terms of them being used for anything else, there has to be legislation to stop that.”
“There is no place for NDAs at all around any of these types of misdemeanours,” she added. “If that protection is available then it perpetuates that sort of behaviour.”