There have been calls to strip retail tycoon Sir Philip Green of his knighthood after he was identified in Parliament as the unnamed businessman at the centre of #MeToo allegations.
Lord Peter Hain used the protection of parliamentary privilege while speaking in the House of Lords yesterday to name Green as the businessman behind a legal injunction that prevented The Daily Telegraph from revealing his identity and from publishing “confidential information” from five employees.
Earlier this week, the national broadsheet ran a front page article that levelled allegations towards an unnamed businessman for bullying, racially abusing and sexually harassing staff.
Green has since “categorically and wholly” denied being guilty of any “unlawful sexual or racist behaviour”, in a statement issued a few hours after Hain’s speech.
However, there have been fresh calls for the Honours Forfeiture Committee to consider withdrawing his knighthood.
Green’s knighthood had previously been challenged during controversies surrounding his shortfalls in the pension scheme for BHS, which he used to own for 15 years via his Arcadia Group retail empire.
One of the figures calling for Green’s knighthood to be stripped again is Work and Pensions Committee chairman Frank Field, the same MP who led the initial condemnation of the retail mogul over his treatment of BHS pensioners.
“The charge sheet against the knighthood is growing,” Field said.
“Parliament and the country have made their views clear on this matter. Ultimately it’s a decision for the Honours Forfeiture Committee.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said Green “narrowly and luckily escaped losing his knighthood over the pensions scandal” and that “if these allegations are correct, he should certainly be stripped of his knighthood”.
Field added that he would push for the creation of a new procedure allowing MPs to raise abuse cases in Parliament.
“I am seeking to raise urgently with the government the importance of having a mechanism in Parliament through which the voices of victims of abuse can be heard,” he said.
“This would develop the role of the House of Commons in a way which stands up for people who have little money, against those who have much.”
Since his speech in the House of Lords yesterday, Hain said he had received “overwhelming support – particularly from women”.
The former cabinet minister said he felt was his duty to identify Green because of the “serious and repeated” nature of the allegations after he was contacted “by someone intimately involved in the case”.
Green’s Arcadia Group retail empire operates high street retailers Topshop and Topman, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge and Evans.
“I am not commenting on anything that has happened in court or was said in Parliament,” Green said in his statement last night.
“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.”
The hidden identity in The Telegraph’s story was a result of an intervention from Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton, the second most senior judge in England and Wales, which prevented the national broadsheet from revealing details of the non-disclosure agreements.
Although the newspaper said it spent eight months investigating the allegations, Etherton’s intervention made it illegal to name the businessman at the centre of what could be the City equivalent to Hollywood’s #MeToo scandal.
It also made it illegal to identify the companies, as well as what he was accused of doing or how much he allegedly paid his alleged victims.
However, principle of parliamentary privilege means that MPs and peers cannot be sued for libel for comments made in the Houses of Parliament.
It also offers protection to media outlets reporting those comments.
Labour equalities spokeswoman Dawn Butler said: “While much of the focus in the coming days will be on this man and his alleged actions, let us also pay tribute to survivors of sexual abuse and harassment, who are too often silenced and cannot command an army of lawyers to fight their corner.
“Non-Disclosure Agreements should never be used to suppress allegations of criminal behaviour.”