Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming has used the constitutional principle of parliamentary privilege to expose a super injunction granted by the court to Sir Fred Goodwin, the controversial former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Sir Goodwin obtained the super injunction to prevent certain information about him being published in the press. However, the Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley has undone the court’s work by saying in Parliament:
“In a secret hearing this week, Fred Goodwin has obtained a super-injunction preventing him being identified as a banker. Will the Government have a debate or a statement on the issue of freedom of speech and whether there is one law for the rich, such as Fred Goodwin, and another law for the poor?”
An injunction is a court order that prevents a person from doing something. A super injunction takes it one step further, as it prevents the media from reporting that an injunction has been obtained. Super injunctions are granted when to report that a certain person has obtained an injunction would undermine the purpose and effect of the injunction itself.
So when Sir Goodwin obtained the super injunction, not only could the media not report the information about him, they were also banned from reporting that a banker had obtained an injunction.
Sir Goodwin, also known as ‘Fed the Shred’, was at the helm of RBS when it nearly collapsed in 2008 and had to be bailed out by the tax payer. In order for RBS to receive the bail-out, Sir Fred had to go. He obliged, but took a £700,000 a year pension and £3million lump sum with him.
Hemming is one of a growing number of MPs who are becoming increasingly frustrated with the court’s willingness to grant the rich and famous super injunctions that protect them from the media’s scrutiny.
He was able to get around the court’s order by using parliamentary privilege to name Sir Goodwin in Parliament and not be hauled before the court.
Parliamentary privilege was enshrined in law in 1689. It allows MPs and peers to be free from defamation claims for statements they make in the Palace of Westminster. It enables them to speak freely without fear of the legal repercussions and therefore they are better able to perform their jobs.