The lord chancellor has waded into the row about Labour peer Lord Hain’s decision to name - under the protection of parliamentary privilege - Sir Philip Green as the businessman at the centre of a British #MeToo scandal.
Gauke addressed the issue towards the end of a speech at the Access to Justice Foundation's 10th anniversary celebration in the Rolls Building in London.
After praising the foundation's work, Gauke's speech took an unexpected turn when he told attendees, including the lord chief justice and president of the Supreme Court: 'You will have seen the coverage of Lord Hain's decision to make use of parliamentary privilege'.
Hain decided to name Green in the House of Lords last week, telling peers he had been contacted by someone 'intimately involved in the case of a powerful businessman using non-disclosure agreements and substantial payments to conceal the truth about serious and repeated sexual harassment, racist abuse and bullying which is compulsively continuing'.
Hain felt it was his duty under parliament privilege to name the person, 'given that the media have been subject to an injunction preventing publication of the full details of a story which is clearly in the public interest'. He has since come under fire for not declaring that he is a paid adviser to Gordon Dadds, the firm representing the Telegraph in the injunction case.
Gauke stressed the importance of respecting the rule of law and said he had 'serious concerns' about using parliamentary privilege when it undermines judges' rulings. 'It is particularly hard to justify using parliamentary privilege where the court process is still ongoing,' Gauke said. Hours before Hain revealed the name, the Judicial Office had taken the unusual step of responding to press criticism with a statement and Twitter posts to point out that the Court of Appeal's decision in ABC and others v Telegraph Media Group Ltd was a temporary injunction.
Gauke recognised that there is a 'legitimate and distinct' debate to be had about the role of non-disclosure agreements, and said the government will consult on potential regulation.
In a statement, Hain said he was 'completely unaware Gordon Dadds were advising the Telegraph regarding this case'. The firm's name appears on the judgment's first page.
Gauke's intervention suggests that he has learned from the furore surrounding his predecessor Liz Truss when she was accused of not standing up for the judiciary over the 'Enemies of the people' headline in 2016.