Belfast Telegraph

Peter Hain was right to name Sir Philip Green under Lords' privilege

Former BHS boss denies sexual harassment, but Labour peer is to be commended for standing up to wrath of legal profession

By Chris Moncrieff

The full majesty of the legal profession has trained its impressive heavy artillery on Labour peer Lord Hain for using parliamentary privilege to disclose Sir Philip Green's name in the House of Lords.

Needless to say, Tory MP Dominic Grieve, a former Attorney-General, has joined in the political assault on Lord Hain, complaining in effect that his action was an affront to the rule of law.

Sir Philip, who has fiercely denied allegations of sexual harassment against him, had used a hugely expensive legal device to prevent publication of his name in the media. How very convenient.

People seem to forget that it's the taxpayer who foots the bill for judges' salaries, for the upkeep and running of the courts and the pay of those who work in them, as well as legal aid. So, surely he has a right to know how his money is spent?

Lord Hain has done them a service. What is the point of having a parliamentary privilege at all if its use is to be deplored by, in this case, the well-heeled and expensive legal eagles?

Let us not forget, either, that the much-acclaimed British justice system, unlike the National Health Service, is available in certain areas only to the super-rich, like Sir Philip.

And who would have dared to sue the BBC in a privacy case but some hugely wealthy pop singer like Cliff Richard?

Even the mighty BBC decided against appealing in this case, because of the amount of money it could lose. So, what chance the little man?

There are, of course, cases - family matters involving children, for instance - where privacy is desirable.

But to allow wealth and power to keep the taxpayer in the dark about other areas of the law is a shameful scandal.

Lord Hain is to be congratulated on his bold action. I am sure he can withstand the slings and arrows of outraged lawyers.

n Some years ago a similar situation existed when the Press were banned from using the name of a very exalted member of the Establishment who was involved in paedophilia matters.

I persuaded a Tory MP, the late Geoffrey Dickens, to table a House of Commons motion naming this man.

He did so and the Speaker of the day didn't stop it and, so, when the name appeared the following morning in parliamentary papers, hey presto, it was in the public domain.

n I am all in favour of MPs hurling robust insults at each other. But even I draw the line when those "insults" suddenly become transformed into threats of murder.

For instance, shadow Chancellor John McDonnell (above) recently said a member of the Tory Government should be "lynched". As far as I am aware there has been no retraction.

And Theresa May was invited by an unnamed Tory to bring her own noose to a meeting of Conservative backbenchers about Brexit.

Meanwhile, Labour MP Jess Phillips said she would not stab her leader Jeremy Corbyn in the back, but in the front. Later she explained - feebly and pompously - that this was a "metaphor" and not a threat. Well, you could have fooled me.

And Labour MP Caroline Flint (below) has said she has been warned by another Labour MP that she will be "hanging from a rope" if she is not careful over her views on Brexit. Talk about brotherly/sisterly love.

This is no way to run what is supposed to be a civilised legislature. Those guilty should be shrouded in shame.

n There are signs that a Labour Government would ban Members of Parliament from having second jobs. How short-sighted and constraining is that?

For a start, being an MP is not supposed to be a job, but a vocation. If parliamentarians are to spend the entirety of their tenure as MPs locked within the walls of the Palace of Westminster then they would have a very blinkered view of the nation and the world at large.

Zealots say that allowing MPs to carry on with work outside parliament would interfere with their duties to their constituents. Nonsense.

They could easily cut down on their workload (much of which is within the province of local authorities anyway) and nobody would notice anything amiss.

It would do no harm to revert to the days when being an MP meant more than just having another well-paid job with plenty of perks, which it has degenerated into today.

Belfast Telegraph

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