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19 May 2011

House of Lords breaks superinjunction

Lord Stoneham asks a question about the superinjunction of the former RBS boss Sir Fred Goodwin. A f

By Duncan Robinson

UPDATE 4.29pm: The superinjunction taken out by Sir Fred Goodwin has been lifted by the High Court. The horse may have bolted, but at least the stable’s door is now shut.

Occasionally in its bumbling, dozy existence, the House of Lords does something rather wonderful. One such example occurred today. Asking a question on behalf of Lord Oakeshott, Lord Stoneham casually broke a superinjunction:

To ask HMG what steps they will take to ensure that the public interest is taken into account in the granting of superinjuctions? Would [the minister] accept that every taxpayer has a direct public interest in the events leading up to the collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland? So how can it be right for a superinjunction to hide the alleged relationship between Sir Fred Goodwin and a senior colleague? If true, it would be a serious failure of corporate governance [yet] not even the FSA would be allowed to know about it.

The Lib Dem justice minister Lord McNally batted the question away, responding: “I do not think it is proper for me, from this despatch box, to comment on individual cases, some of which are before the courts.”

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It is not the first time that a superinjunction has been broken in parliament – indeed, the existence of Goodwin’s injunction only came to light in March after a backbench Liberal Democrat, John Hemming, raised the matter in the Commons.

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It is, however, another blow against the sometimes farcical situation whereby the national media are gagged from reporting a story that is common knowledge on social networking websites. As David Allen Green points out, there is a need for privacy injunctions to enable people to protect private information. The current system increasingly seems unfit for purpose.

Watch Lord Stoneham break the superinjunction below: