Page last updated at 13:35 GMT, Monday, 26 January 2009

Games firms sign 'gagging orders'

An artist's impression of the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, east London
Firms have to sign away the right to talk to any third party

Companies building facilities for the 2012 London Olympics are being forced to sign "draconian" gagging orders, a BBC London investigation has found.

Olympic bosses are making firms sign contracts which prevent them talking publicly about all details of the work for six years.

If a leak is suspected the contract allows the Olympic Delivery Authority to search a firm's premises and emails.

The authority said the contracts were a standard confidentiality agreement.

But BBC London's Olympics Correspondent Adrian Warner said: "The companies I have talked to are shocked they have to sign a document which effectively allows 2012 to walk into their premises and start searching them.

Legal experts have told me these contracts are draconian
BBC London's Olympics Correspondent Adrian Warner

"Legal experts have told me these contracts are draconian."

BBC London has seen the gagging orders which have been in place for at least six months.

The six-year ban on disclosing information is regarded as being particularly long.

BBC London asked organisers of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics whether they had imposed similar widespread restrictions on firms in Canada, and were told emphatically they had not.

Firms sign away the right to talk to any third party, without the ODA's permission, about technical plans, the cost of venues, a project's progress, environmental issues, health and safety measures and any discussions with ministers.

Costs or liabilities

The contract says companies and their subcontractors must not "do anything… which would have an adverse effect on, or embarrass any Games body or any supporter of the Games or official sponsor."

The document warns firms they must "reimburse the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) for any costs or liabilities" arising from any breach of contract including all legal costs.

The most controversial clause adds: "For the purpose of investigating any breach or threatened or possible breach, the company will allow the ODA direct access upon demand to any of its premises or information which may…contain confidential information or any communications with any third parties in respect of confidential information."

Asked about the contracts, an ODA spokesman denied the contracts were so severe and supplied BBC London with a standard "corporate confidentiality undertaking".

We have a proven commitment to transparency
ODA spokesman
The contract did not, however, contain the same clauses included in the contracts sent to companies.

An ODA spokesman said: "As with any company or public body, ODA contractors are required to sign a confidentiality agreement covering confidential information, including security and commercial information critical to the success of the project.

"This is standard practice.

"We have a proven commitment to transparency and have proactively communicated activity on the project, regularly alongside our contractors, including sensitive issues such as the discovery of contaminated material on the Olympic Park.

"In addition, all ODA contractors have to meet their legal disclosure obligations, such as reporting information on serious accidents directly to the Health and Safety Executive, and this information is publicly available through the usual channels."

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The contracts give the Olympic Delivery Authority the right to search a company's premises and e-mails

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