Page last updated at 16:53 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 17:53 UK

PM asked to act on gagging orders

Gordon Brown at PMQs
Mr Brown pledged to look into the case

Gordon Brown has been asked to look at what can be done about legal bids to stop journalists reporting that gagging orders are in place.

The PM said he hoped to "clear up what is an unfortunate area of the law".

On Tuesday an order temporarily stopped the Guardian reporting details of an MP's parliamentary question.

Tory MP Peter Bottomley said the order should never have been granted and he intended to report law firm Carter-Ruck to the Law Society for seeking one.

It follows a battle between the Guardian newspaper and the well-known libel lawyers about a Parliamentary question relating to oil-trading firm Trafigura and Ivory Coast toxic waste.

Minton report

The Guardian was initially blocked from reporting the question by Labour MP Paul Farrelly, about an injunction stopping the publication of the Minton report into the waste issue.

Carter-Ruck argued an order stopping the media revealing this injunction also applied to parliamentary reports, but relented before the Guardian challenged it in court.

There is no question of Trafigura seeking to 'gag' the media from reporting parliamentary proceedings, and the parties have now agreed to an amendment to the existing order so as to reflect that
Carter-Ruck statement

The injunction on reporting the contents of the Minton report remains in place.

At prime minister's questions, Mr Bottomley said: "Experts in reputation management are reported as saying that their original injunction gave them, Carter Ruck, the power to prevent what was said in Parliament being reported.

"No court should grant such an order and I intend to report them to the Law Society for asking for the injunction."

He asked the prime minister to see if he could ensure that any court that grants a "secret injunction" should have to put a copy in the House of Commons library and press gallery.

He also said any "such emergency order" should be reviewed the following day at the Court of Appeal.

Mr Brown said it was "important" to say something about cases where injunctions have been awarded but have to remain secret.

He said Justice Secretary Jack Straw had talked to "the parties concerned" and was looking into the issue and would talk to Mr Bottomley about it.

Mr Brown added: "I hope that on the basis of what he suggests, progress can be made not just on this case but more generally to clear up what is an unfortunate area of the law."

In a statement, Carter-Ruck said: "There is no question of Trafigura seeking to 'gag' the media from reporting parliamentary proceedings, and the parties have now agreed to an amendment to the existing order so as to reflect that."



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