Billionaire retail tycoon Sir Philip Green “repeatedly” slapped female staff members’ bottoms, touched their legs and “grabbed” their breasts, a peer has claimed.
Lord Peter Hain, who used parliamentary privilege to name Sir Philip last year as the businessman at the centre of a court injunction over sexual harassment claims, said “hundreds” of grievances had been lodged against the Topshop owner.
Speaking in the House of Lords, he told peers that abuse was “rife” and claimed Sir Philip had “screamed and shouted” at staff, including telling them to see a psychologist.
Sir Philip has previously “categorically and wholly” denied the claims.
Responding to Lord Hain‘s latest claims, he said: “How sad somebody who already has proven they’re prepared to abuse the system wants to continue to behave in this manner.”
Lord Hain was speaking during a debate on the use of parliamentary privilege. He said he had decided to reveal exactly what he was told by a whistleblower in order to defend his actions.
He said: “To explain why, I am revealing for the first time in public exactly what one of Sir Philip Green’s victims told me whilst pleading with me to name him under parliamentary privilege.”
Quoting the alleged victim speaking about Sir Philip, he said: “He was touching and repeatedly slapping women staff’s bottoms – grabbing thighs and touching legs. Hundreds of grievance cases were raised with HR. The company lawyer who interviewed me then lied. Sir Philip screamed and shouted at staff: ‘Go to psychologists.’ Victims went to an employment tribunal but were told it would not get anywhere so settled with an NDA [non-disclosure agreement].
“Some were worn down with spiralling legal costs, costing them a fortune. He broke some in the end. It was horrible. He’s still doing exactly the same thing. It is rife. It happened all the time. I saw him grab the breasts of others. This has gone on for a long time.”
Lord Hain said that, after he named Sir Philip last October, “numerous former employees and executives” of the Arcadia group owner had made similar allegations in the media.
Defending his decision to use parliamentary privilege to break a court injunction preventing the tycoon being named, he said: “My motive was to stand up for ordinary employees against a very powerful and wealthy boss, who, as described to me, seemed to think he was above the rules of decent, respectful behaviour.”
Following criticism from some fellow peers over his actions, he added: “Parliamentary privilege is a fundamental part of our constitution and is the only absolute free speech right entrenched in the law, so it is part of the rule of law itself.
“Surely the prospect that it may be used should be a deterrent to anyone minded to seek a secrecy order from the courts to cover up allegations of misconduct, as in the Philip Green case.”
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