UPDATE: There are claims on Twitter that the injunction has been lifted; in fact it has only been partially lifted, as the Guardian explains.
Fresh details of the draconian injunction protecting Sir Fred Goodwin, former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland were exposed on Thursday by a peer on the floor of the House of Lords.
Lord Stoneham*, speaking on behalf of Lord Oakeshott, used parliamentary privilege to argue that every taxpayer had a direct public interest in the events leading up to the collapse of RBS, which only survived with a £20bn taxpayer bailout.
“So how can it be right for a super-injunction to hide the alleged relationship between Sir Fred Goodwin and a senior colleague,” he said. “If true it would be a serious breach of corporate governance and not even the Financial Services Authority would know about it.”
Lord Oakeshott’s topical question was read out by someone else because the peer was in Munich, Germany on Thursday when the authorities allowed him to ask it.
Our full story is here at ft.com.
Sir Fred’s injunction is so strict that it prevents him being identified as a banker. The fact that his injunction existed was only exposed when John Hemming, a backbench Liberal Democrat MP, also used parliamentary privilege to reveal it.
Lord Oakeshott told me: “This was the biggest corporate crash in British history, it cost taxpayers billions and thousands of people their jobs, if it isn’t in the public interest then I don’t know what is.”
The intervention by the Lib Dem peer marks the latest attempt by parliamentarians to chip away at the existence of “super-injunctions”. These devices, which prevent the reporting of the existence of the injunction, have been used increasingly against the media in recent months. The disclosure comes a day before a report into super injunctions is published by one of Britain’s most senior judges, Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger.
* My legal colleague Jane Croft, who co-wrote this piece, points out that Stoneham is her former boss from her local newspaper days; thus the interest in press freedom.
He was managing director of Portsmouth & Sunderland Newspapers prior to takeover by Johnson Press. Also he has links with News Group – he was a group production director and human resources director with News International apparently before becoming a Lib Dem peer.